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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Labour and skills shortages

Labour shortages

We collected data from across the industry to understand the scale and complexity of the labour and skills shortage, here are our findings:

Recruiters' biggest concerns

Our findings clearly highlight the severity of the problem.

Nine in ten recruiters (88%) say that labour shortages are their biggest concern for the remainder of 2021, while skill shortages are a major concern for two in three (65%).

biggest concerns

Factors affecting recruiters' ability to place suitable candidates


Filling the roles

Despite the severity of the labour and skills shortages, recruiters have been working around the clock, placing people into work. Many of the respondents say they have a significantly higher number of roles to fill than before the pandemic – three in five recruiters (58%) have at least 30% more vacancies now.

Almost every respondent to the REC survey (97%) said that it was taking longer than usual to fill those vacancies, exacerbating the problem:


Recruiter response

Recruiters have adapted their operations to respond to the fluid demand of the pandemic. Here’s what some our members have done to respond to a changing labour market:

recruiter response

In response, the REC has set out a number of asks for both government and business to help solve this crisis:

Set up a new cross-government and industry forum including BEIS, DfE and DWP.

Whilst we are pleased that government has set up a crossdepartmental group internally – to be effective, this group must include industry experts. This would restore the importance of workforce planning in the economic debate between business, government and other stakeholders

Allow flexibility in the points-based immigration system and a visa route for lowerskilled workers.

This would allow firms in the worst-affected sectors like logistics to access staff at times of pressing need.

Broaden the apprenticeship levy and increase funding for training at lower skill levels.

This would improve progression and transition opportunities for lower-skilled and temporary workers who need them most, and encourage business to do more here in the UK, not less.

Increase focus from businesses on workforce planning, staff engagement, attraction and retention policies.

Firms need to raise workforce planning up to the senior leadership level, and work with key professional partners like recruiters to boost performance, productivity and staff wellbeing.

Further data

A guide on engaging your local MP on worker shortages

Please find a template letter to reach out to your local MP with a view to arranging a meeting between your organisation, the REC, and the MP regarding the labour shortages.

More REC research on jobs, recruitment and recovery