The aftermath of Brexit has brought about a significant shift in the demographic composition of the British workforce, with non-EU workers surpassing their EU counterparts in numbers. According to data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK recorded 2,556,741 non-EU workers by the end of December, surpassing the 2,332,476 EU workers.
This marked the first time since 2010 that EU workers were no longer the dominant group.
The surge in EU workers came about after the expansion of the European Union to include Poland and seven other Eastern European countries in 2004, followed by the addition of Romania and Bulgaria three years later.
However, the HMRC figures demonstrate that in the past four years, the UK labor market has increasingly relied on workers from outside the EU due to the end of free movement rules post-Brexit.
The peak of EU workers in the UK was reached in November 2019, as per the HMRC data, coinciding with a presence of 1.9 million non-EU workers during the same period.
Since then, the number of non-EU workers has experienced a substantial surge of over 637,000 individuals, while EU workers have witnessed a decline of 170,000.
Additional data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour force survey reveals that non-EU workers held the majority until 2010 when EU workers overtook them after the EU expansion.
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Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said: “It’s quite a striking development, taking place in just a few years.”
In certain employment sectors, the prevalence of non-EU staff has already surpassed that of EU employees, most notably in the hospitality industry.
Between March of the previous year and March of the current year, a total of 740,075 work visas were issued to non-EU nationals, inclusive of temporary visas, in comparison to 46,457 visas issued to EU nationals.
It is important to note that these figures do not account for family members who may have accompanied these workers to Britain.