Number of international workers in UK hospitality sector shrinks by nearly 200,000

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Number of international workers in UK hospitality sector shrinks by 200,000 since Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic Brexit EU worker decline

Related tags brexit Recruitment Staff Coronavirus

As many as 196,000 international workers including some 120,000 EU workers have left the UK hospitality sector since 2019, a new report from specialist hospitality hiring partner reveals.

The report, which surveyed 250 hospitality employers from around the UK, reveals the changing demographic makeup of a sector that has long relied on an EU workforce.

A report last year revealed that some 90,000 EU workers had left the sector since the onset of the pandemic. However, this latest report shows the proportion of European workers has continued to shrink and many as 120,000 have now left the UK’s hospitality sector.

More than 70,000 workers from other international countries have also dropped out of the workforce.

Whilst positive changes have been recently made by the Government to allow more international workers to come to the UK, such as making chefs eligible for a skilled worker visa, the report shows these schemes are not having a strong enough impact.

The’s report has found that while 61% of hospitality employers are registered to hire internationally, immigration policies are deterring 89% from hiring overseas. Barriers include lack of visa flexibility or availability (42%), unclear and changing guidelines from the government (38%), and associated costs such as visas (34%). Over a quarter (27%) of hospitality employers are not confident that they would know how to sponsor an international worker.

With barriers stopping businesses from hiring aboard and the report showing that two in five (43%) hospitality businesses have had to reduce operations as a result of the staffing crisis, there is a growing need for employers to look closer to home to fill roles and some green shoots have started to emerge.

Indeed, the report shows early signs of UK workers being inspired to join the sector, with 25% of hospitality businesses seeing an increase in local candidates. As the make-up of the industry changes post pandemic and post Brexit, the proportion of UK homegrown talent in the sector has increased.

“The hospitality sector is experiencing a sustained and severe labour crisis which is impacting its ability to thrive and limiting its potential contribution to the UK economy,” says Kathy Dyball, director at

“Making chefs eligible for Skilled Worker status was good start, however our report suggests this is yet to have a significant impact and highlights that the immigration system is unclear, with employers facing barriers when it comes to hiring overseas.

“However, it’s great to see an increase in homegrown talent entering the sector, and it’s now vital to continue to drive this by tapping into different talent pools throughout the UK.”

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