The impact of Brexit on the world of employment

Jim Hillage outlines his three areas to monitor

Hillage J |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Sep 2016

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In this video IES Principal Associate, Jim Hillage, offers his view on how Brexit will impact on employment.

He cites three main areas to monitor as the UK progresses through this uncharted territory. These areas are higher education; skills supply and demand; and health and safety policy.




The full impact on the UK labour market of the UK leaving the European Union will only gradually become clear over a number of years and certainly not until the terms of our departure have been made clear.


Even then it’s going to be really difficult to assess what has exactly happened compared with what could have happened, ie the counterfactual, because that would be almost impossible to measure.


But we can spot a number of areas where we think that some things will be different in a few years' time to what they are now and I would just like to highlight three of these.


First obviously is skills and skills supply.


Over two million EU nationals currently work in the UK labour market and UK employers are increasingly reliant on foreign skills to make things in the manufacturing sector and supply services in the rest of the economy.


It will be a key issue to see how we resolve the freedom of movement and freedom of labour between us and the rest of Europe and whether, once that settlement has been agreed, UK employers still have access to the skills that they need at all levels.


And if not what alternative sources of supply are they going to find, both from other parts of the world but, most particularly, from within the UK and whether we can develop our own skills at all the levels that are currently filled by EU nationals.


Another area it would be quite interested to look at is what happens in higher education and the access that foreign students have to UK universities and, similarly, what access our students have to study in foreign universities.


Currently some 400,000 foreign students are studying at either bachelor or masters level in UK universities. Well over a quarter of these come from within the EU.


Similarly some 200,000 UK students have benefited from the EU’s Erasmus programme in recent years and studied for part of their degree or all of their degree in European universities.


So that exchange and whether that happens will be really interesting to monitor and whether students still have access to those foreign seats of learning. It will be really important for the UK universities because a lot of them rely heavily on foreign student income.


The third area I’d just highlight is what is going to happen in health and safety.


In the debates leading up to the EU referendum lots was made of EU red tape, and in particular health and safety was highlighted as an example of where foreign unelected government had interfered in UK workplaces.


However, in fact a lot of health and safety legislation originates in the UK and it will be interesting to monitor whether the situation changes once we have left.