Economics – EU workers in the UK

Date : 20 July 2021

The “Settled Status” scheme was set up to allow EU nationals to protect their right to live and work in the UK in the aftermath of EU Exit.

It was expected that 3.5m to 4.1m people might be eligible but, just before the scheme closed, 5.3m people had applied and 4.9m had been granted “settled” or “pre-settled” status, with some applications outstanding.

Earlier this year, ONS temporarily withdrew data on EU workers in the UK labour market, due to concerns over accuracy. Revised data is now available.

According to this, the number of EU nationals employed in the UK peaked in Q1 2020 at 2,411,000. This fell in Q2 and Q3 2020, then picked up - by Q1 2021, the figure was 2,176,000 (down 11% or 235,000 from peak).

To compare, the entire UK armed forces are about 200,000 – this is a major change in just 4 quarters. So, numbers have fallen – but it is not clear whether this is due to COVID-19, EU Exit, or other issues.

Note that, under ONS rules, workers on “furlough” still count as employed – some people registered as EU workers may actually be resting or currently living overseas.

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