Retailers, manufacturers and food producers are being hit by a shortage of migrant workers, finds a new report.
Question: when unemployment is at around a ten-year low, what happens if workers from the EU begin to leave the work force?
According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), more than a quarter of UK employers fear that EU workers are thinking about leaving the UK in 2017.
The CIPD survey found that in Q1 of last year all labour providers said they could fill all vacancies. By Q3, 47 per cent reported a shortage.
The survey also found that 43 per cent of education employers and 49 per cent of organisations that employ staff in the healthcare sector, said that they thought EU workers were considering leaving.
How big a problem is this?
Well, 17 per cent of employers said they would invest more in training, a similar number said they would recruit more apprentices, and 16 per cent said they would recruit more UK workers.
It may be, of course, that a shortage of labour will force companies to invest more in capital, trying to eke out more productivity per employee, which is what the UK needs.
But at a time when unemployment is quite low, it is hard not to conclude that labour shortages will lead to higher wages.
Some may react to that by saying good, we need wages to go up. But unless rising wages go hand in hand with a commensurate rise in productivity, the end-result will just be higher prices.