Sunak’s Migration Policy Damaging Hospitality

10th January 2024

Since Brexit made it harder for Europeans to work in the UK, British pubs and restaurants have come to rely on labour from further-flung parts of the world, but Rishi Sunak’s planned crackdown on migration is threatening to stifle that supply, according to Bloomberg.

Arrivals to the UK from countries such as Nigeria, India and China have risen sharply, more than offsetting the number of departing EU citizens and pushing overall levels of net migration to an all-time high.

“As there are less [SIC] Europeans, we are seeing more rest-of-the-world people come in,” said Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK. “A lot of Europeans went home during covid, and they didn’t come back.”

Prime Minister Sunak is gambling on the a controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while stamping down on economic migration, with new limits on students and the families of people who are granted work visas, to avoid a political storm over record migration. Yet these are the groups who often fill hospitality jobs, as it is difficult to get a visa to work in a bar or eatery.

“We tend to employ more people doing fewer hours,” said Murdoch. He explained that many of his staff from outside Europe are students and so are well-suited to these jobs. “There will be a shift to more part-time workers.”

Proposed changes to the migration system “will reduce the pool of migrant labour that businesses can hire,” said Ben Brindle, a researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

In early December, Sunak vowed to increase the minimum salary needed to secure a skilled work visa by a third, to £38,700, well above the average pay of most hospitality workers.

“Migration isn’t the only way to fill vacancies, so what happens will depend on how businesses respond,” Brindle said. “In theory, they could improve pay to attract domestic workers or automate production, but in some cases, these options won’t be feasible.”