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Ministers warned

Labour shortages ‘could last two years’ says CBI

Britain said to be short of 100,000 HGV drivers

Britain’s labour shortages could last for up to two years and will not be solved by the end of the Job Retention Scheme, ministers have been warned.

The CBI says shortages range across the economy from scaffolders and carpenters, to skilled workers in butchery and electrical engineering.

A shortage of drivers in the logistics sector is also disrupting supply chains in everything from food and health to utilities. The shortage of HGV drivers is estimated to have grown from 60,000 to over 100,000.

Tony Danker, the group’s director-general, said that waiting for shortages to solve themselves is not the way to run an economy.

“The CBI has heard from companies actively cutting capacity because they can’t meet demand,  like the hoteliers limiting the number of bookable rooms because they don’t have enough housekeeping staff and can’t get linen laundered.

Tony Danker: Labour shortages are biting right across the economy’

“Some restaurant owners have had to choose between lunchtime and evening services when trying to make the most of summer.  

“Let’s be clear – employers back existing government schemes to get people back into work. And businesses are already spending significant amounts on training, but that takes time to yield results, and some members suggest it could take two years rather than a couple of months for labour shortages to be fully eliminated. 

“We need to simultaneously address short term economic needs and long-term economic reform.” 

Mr Danker said using existing levers under the UK’s control – like placing drivers, welders, butchers and bricklayers on the shortage occupation list – could make a real difference.

The Government had promised an immigration system that would focus on the skills Britain needs rather than unrestrained access to overseas labour.

“Yet here we have obvious and short term skilled need but a system that can’t seem to respond,” said Mr Danker.

He is also urging businesses to play their part on long term productivity reforms by continuing to invest in training, automation and digital transformation, together with doing more to attract and retain staff from a diverse talent pool.  

Mr Danker said: “Labour shortages are biting right across the economy. 

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“While the CBI and other economists still predict growth returning to pre-pandemic levels later this year, furlough ending is not the panacea some people think will magically fill labour supply gaps. 

“These shortages are already affecting business operations, and will have a negative impact on the UK’s economic recovery.   

“Other European countries are also experiencing staffing shortages as their economies bounce back. In the UK, many overseas workers left during the pandemic affecting sectors including hospitality, logistics and food processing. And new immigration rules make replacing those who left more complex.”

Mr Danker said building a more innovative economy – coupled with better training and education – can sustainably improve business performance, wages and living standards. 

“But transformation on this scale requires planning and takes time. 

“The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right.

“But implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong. And a refusal to deploy temporary and targeted interventions to enable economic recovery is self-defeating.”



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