NI companies may be ‘forced to move’ over staffing worries

Report says significant drop number of non-UK nationals could precipitate relocation

Bombardier’s Belfast factory. Manufacturing NI has warned that businesses cannot prevent an “EU skills drain” from the North and that a strong Euro is attracting EU nationals to relocate to work in other locations , with the Republic a popular destination.

Bombardier’s Belfast factory. Manufacturing NI has warned that businesses cannot prevent an “EU skills drain” from the North and that a strong Euro is attracting EU nationals to relocate to work in other locations , with the Republic a popular destination.

 

Northern Ireland companies may be forced to move to “other jurisdictions with easier access to foreign labour” if there is a significant drop in the number of non-UK nationals coming to work in the North, a new university report has cautioned.

According to the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) migrant workers are “playing an increasingly important role in the Northern Ireland economy”.

In its Winter 2018 Outlook report, released on Tuesday, the centre highlighted that in 2004 just 4.7 per cent of the local workforce had been born outside of Northern Ireland but by 2016 this figure had risen to 10.2 per cent.

Gareth Hetherington, director of the UUEPC, said evidence shows that non-UK nationals are working in jobs that “Northern Ireland born workers do not want”.

Migrants

Mr Hetherington added: “Migrants have been key to supplying Northern Ireland businesses and organisations with labour over the last 10 to 15 years with foreign born workers accounting for over half, 55 per cent, of all employment growth between 2004 and 2016.

“Approximately 83 per cent of the increase in low-skilled jobs were taken by migrant labour, conversely, migrants accounted for only 13 per cent of the increase in high-skilled jobs.”

Ulster University’s latest research comes as many Northern Ireland firms fear that EU nationals, in particular, see a “decreasing number of economic reasons” to work and live in the North which they claim is contributing to a growing skills shortage across many sectors.

Manufacturing NI has warned that businesses cannot prevent an “EU skills drain” from the North and that a strong Euro is attracting EU nationals to relocate to work in other locations , with the Republic a popular destination.

Last week both the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the NI Hotel Federation also warned of staff shortages in their sectors.

Choices

Mr Hetherington said Northern Ireland businesses face a set of stark choices if the number of non UK nationals coming to the North slumps.

He said local firms will have to “either encourage more local people back into the labour market possibly through higher wages, increase levels of investment in labour saving technology, or move to other jurisdictions with easier access to foreign labour.”

Against this backdrop the university has forecast in its latest economic outlook that the North’s economic performance is expected to remain “steady” over the next few years although overall growth is likely to fall to 1.1 per cent in 2019.