U.K. Companies Don't Favor Foreign Labor Over British Workers

(Bloomberg) -- British workers haven’t been losing out to foreign labor and are unlikely to see job prospects dramatically improve because of Brexit immigration cuts, according to a survey of U.K. companies.

While almost half of firms faced skill or labor shortages in the past 12 months, less than 10 percent said they targeted overseas workers to fill the gap, instead investing more in recruitment and training, the British Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday. It added that the results “challenge the myth that U.K. firms are ignoring local workers in favor of overseas labor.”

There was also a note of caution for those who say that reducing the inflow of European Union workers as part of Brexit will help jobs prospects for Britons. Just one-in-five U.K. companies said a restriction on access to EU labor would prompt them to focus recruitment on local employees.

The free movement of labor featured through the campaign before last year’s EU referendum, playing on voters’ concerns that growing numbers of workers from overseas are snatching jobs and pushing down wages. It’s also played a part since then, with the government signaling it’s willing to prioritize migration controls over access to the single market.

Forty percent of U.K. businesses have employees from other EU countries, while 23 percent have workers from outside the bloc, the BCC survey showed. Almost 40 percent say future restrictions on EU workers would have a negative impact on their business.

The risk of a shortage of workers is increasing as U.K. unemployment remains at historically low levels. The jobless rate stayed at an almost 40-year low of 4.4 percent in the three months through July, economists said in a survey before data due later on Wednesday.