Economic Watch: Labor shortages continue to impact British industries

Source: Xinhua| 2021-10-16 15:51:39|Editor: huaxia

by Xinhua writer Sun Xiaoling

LONDON, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Following the recent shortages of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers in Britain, the country now has to seek more foreign butchers to help its meat processing industry.

The British government announced Thursday that up to 800 additional foreign butchers will be eligible to apply until Dec. 31 for visas that will allow them to travel and work here for six months.

"This temporary adjustment is in addition to foreign butchers already being eligible since December 2020 to apply to come to the UK through the Skilled Worker route as part of the point-based immigration system," said a joint statement issued by the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

"A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing today," said George Eustice, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

"This is the result of close working with industry to understand how we can support them through this challenging time," Eustice added.

Responding to the fresh butchers recruitment notice, Tom Bradshaw, vice president in the National Farmers' Union, said this is "very welcome news for the pork sector and provides some long-awaited relief for those farmers with pigs backing up on farms."

"Given the severity of these issues, it's critical that this scheme is up and running as soon as possible to ease this backlog," said Bradshaw. "Labor shortages across the food supply chain remain acute and continued engagement with government is essential to solve these wider issues."

"The food supply chain remains united in its view that a temporary 12-month COVID Recovery Visa is needed to enable the entire food and drink sector to recruit for essential roles, alongside an urgent announcement on the extension of the seasonal workers pilot scheme," Bradshaw added.

Apart from the new visa plan for butchers, the government had already announced a package of measures in September to address the shortages of HGV drivers, which include streamlining the testing process and announcing training for up to 5,000 new drivers.

"Visas will not be the long-term solution, and reform within the industry is vital," said the government statement, adding that "we want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labor to build a high-wage, high-skill economy."

Notably, the estimated number of job vacancies in Britain saw the highest level in the third quarter this year since records began in 2001, the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday.

Between July to September, the number of job vacancies saw a record high of over 1.1 million, an increase of 318,000 from the level between January and March 2020, according to the ONS.

"July to September 2021 saw continued growth across the majority of sectors with 12 of the 18 categories displaying a record number of vacancies; the largest quarterly increase was seen in wholesale and retail trade," added the ONS.

Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, a British business group, said "We are starting to see a vacancy paradox in the jobs market: record-high job adverts but still more people unemployed than there were before the pandemic."

"The answer appears to be that those people seeking work do not have the skills or availability that employers need," said Ussher, adding that businesses will be "looking to the government to prioritize lifelong skills and retraining to help them find the teams they need to expand and grow." Enditem

KEY WORDS: Britain,Labour Shortage,ECONOMIC WATCH