LONDON. Crops and plantations worth tens of millions of pounds are likely to rot soon in the UK. How come? There are not enough workers to harvest fruits, vegetables and other products of the Earth. Because farmers and entrepreneurs in the sector cannot find low-cost workers to carry out this type of job.
To be precise, the harvest that is left behind in the fields would correspond to 22 million pounds in value, or 26 million euros, and only in the first half of 2022, according to a survey carried out by the union of 200 farmers “National Farmers Union” and published by “Bloomberg”. If you think that the association represents a third of the fruit and vegetable sector in the United Kingdom, it is likely that food on the verge of being wasted and rotting – because no one picks it – will reach around 66 million pounds, in the first six months alone. of this year. At a time when, on the other hand, this injection of natural products would be useful, in a country plagued by inflation (almost 10%) and by the cost of living and energy costs. So much so that the same probable new prime minister Liz Truss insists on the internal production of food products even at the expense of “solar panels in the fields”.
The UK has had a chronic shortage of workers for months. Of course, Covid has weakened the labor market of many Western countries, not just London. But across the Channel there is the aggravating circumstance of Brexit, which has considerably complicated the arrival of seasonal and unskilled workers, including those of the land: not only for the exit from the free movement of the European single market but also for the new , a very hard migratory point system on the Australian model. Not surprisingly, Truss herself has promised that as Prime Minister she will ease the squeeze on seasonal visas in British farm fields. But no more.
Yet, more generally, it now seems clear that with the current restrictive rules on migrants, the UK is unable to fill its gaps in the labor market. Despite unemployment at an all-time low for almost half a century and now standing at 3.8%, the vacancies that fail to be filled are around one and a half million. A sign that some jobs, especially low-level ones, the British don’t want to do.
Finally, Brexit, as we said, has made things worse. Not only in the travel and aviation sector, after even the mammoth Heathrow airport had to set a ceiling of 100,000 departing passengers at least until the end of September because it does not have enough workers to manage travelers. But even in the restaurant business, things are bad in the UK. In 2021, only 43 thousand European citizens received a visa to be able to work overseas against figures ranging from 230 thousand to 430 thousand per year, in the previous six. Also in this sector, which is often waiters and cooks, the United Kingdom lost 98,000 European workers between June 2019 and June 2021, and another 64,000 cleaning and maintenance operators.