U.K. Lost Workers to EU During Covid and Brexit, LinkedIn Says

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The networking website LinkedIn said its database shows more of its members left the U.K. for the European Union than arrived over the past year after the coronavirus and Brexit sent shock waves through the labor market.

The exodus from Britain accelerated through the early months of 2021, even as net migration from countries outside the EU remained positive. The findings indicate a broad reshaping of the U.K. workforce that could have implications for the potential of an economic recovery.

U.K. Lost Workers to EU During Covid and Brexit, LinkedIn Says

“These trends are accelerating,” said Mariano Mamertino, senior economist at LinkedIn. “We’re seeing two diverging trends: net-migration losses for the U.K. with the rest of the EU, and net-migration gains for the U.K. with non-EU countries.”

The findings shed light on the size of Britain’s workforce as the nation emerges from its worst recession in three centuries. Population estimates form the starting point for forecasts about the economy’s size and productivity. The pandemic and Brexit both clouded that issue, leaving little reliable data.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 pushed immigration to the heart of the political debate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson won election in 2019 promising to take control of the U.K. borders and decisive break from the EU.

Now after three lockdowns to control the coronavirus and tighter restrictions on immigration, economists are starting to ask whether the U.K. will have enough workers to fill the jobs once Covid-19 rules relax again.

The LinkedIn findings add anecdotal evidence to the debate about how many people many have left the U.K. Some economists had calculated that more than 1 million foreign-born workers may have left in 2020, but government data Tuesday indicated a drop of less than 180,000.

The biggest net outflows of LinkedIn members were to Germany, France and Spain. Inflows came from India, Nigeria and South Africa, with the software and IT sector experiencing the biggest gain in non-EU workers, it said.

The analysis also indicated that more people moved to the U.K. from the U.S. than the other way around over the last year, reversing the previous trend.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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