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Brexit or Bremain? Both will impact SA workforce

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Today, the UK heads to the polls to decide whether it remains part of the European Union, or if it exits.

One of the main arguments on both sides of the divide relate to employment.

Those in favour of exiting state that the large scale movement of people into the UK through European Union channels has seriously impacted on job availability for UK citizens.

Those in favour to remain state that an exit would only worsen the burgeoning unemployment situation as a result of decreased trade with Europe and migrant labour limitations for UK citizens.

The UK economy would be “critically short” of workers if the country decides to leave the European Union (EU) on 23 June, according to a report by the Manpower Group.

James Hick, MD of the Manpower Group, says: “This is because EU workers will not be able to move freely to the UK in the event of a Brexit.”

The report was prepared following the company’s latest quarterly, Manpower Employment Outlook survey.

Hick says: “Britain added 404 000 jobs in the last 12 months alone, and despite the uncertainties of Brexit, employers tell us they still need more workers.

“Make no mistake about the vital contribution EU workers make to Britain. There are currently 2,2-million people from the EU working in the UK, but not all of them will stay here in the long term and we need the opportunity to replace the skills they bring.

“Britain today is a magnet for international talent, from finance to tech to the NHS. Leaving the EU will make it much more difficult to attract the brightest and best. It will mean more bureaucracy for those coming to Britain and salaries could be less competitive, especially if sterling falls, as many warn it could,” Hick explains.

On the other hand, if the UK votes to remain at the 23 June EU referendum, the confidence of UK employers “would return to normality”, Hick opined. This was because of the large number of job vacancies that are still present in the economy, he says.

Similarly, Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of Manpower Group South Africa, says that a Brexit would have serious implications for South African professionals.

“Traditionally, the UK has been a primary market for South African professionals to gain international experience, particularly in the financial and professional services industries.

“A Brexit would more than likely lead to further barriers to entry into the UK, regardless of where the talent is coming from. International businesses with offices in both the UK, South Africa, and other key markets in Africa would face significant challenges in moving their workforce across borders.”

According to the South African Manpower Employment outlook survey for Q3 of 2016, South African employers report conservative fair hiring intentions for the July to September time frame. Just 12% of employers are expecting to increase staffing levels, 6% are forecasting a decrease and 79% are anticipating no change.

“A Brexit would have an economic ripple on South Africa, and would potentially increase market uncertainty and lead to a decrease in employment outlooks for the remainder of the year, and into 2017,” Van den Barselaar says. “However, a Bremain outcome would potentially also cause the SA employment market to contract, although to a far smaller degree than a Brexit outcome, while confidence is restored.”