Supply crisis: These industries have job gaps like the HGV sector - and show no sign of bouncing back

Asia's Tech News Daily

Over the first half of this year, sectors that include cleaning jobs and those working in warehouses experienced similar labour shortages to driving, but they have not had the same bounce back in interest over recent months.

Supply crisis: These industries have job gaps like the HGV sector - and show no sign of bouncing back

Almost a third of occupations now see less interest from jobseekers than before the pandemic, Sky News analysis shows.

The largest decline has been in “cleaning and sanitation” and “loading and stocking”, according to data from the hiring website Indeed.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics said the number of job vacancies in the UK hit a record high in the three months to September.

A shortage of lorry drivers brought much of the UK to a standstill last month, as fuel deliveries struggled to keep up with demand.

Over the first half of this year, sectors that include cleaning jobs and those working in warehouses experienced similar labour shortages to driving, but they have not had the same bounce back in interest over recent months.

Why are these sectors struggling to fill roles?

One of the main reasons for shortages has been an increase in demand for workers. Job vacancies hit a record high of 1.1 million in the three months to September, according to ONS data.

The biggest recovery in vacancies is in sectors like accommodation and food services, which were badly affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

But in other sectors with labour shortages, the picture is more complicated.

Demand for warehouse workers always picks up in the winter ahead of Christmas, and has surged in recent years because of the boom in e-commerce, says Clare Bottle, chief executive of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA).

But this year “it’s definitely become a more widespread problem”, with lots of unfilled permanent roles as well, she says.

According to the British Cleaning Council, many cleaning and hygiene companies are also struggling to recruit the staff they need and the situation is “getting worse daily”.

“If we go back a couple of years, the proportion of HGV drivers who were EU nationals was about 15%, but the equivalent proportion of forklift truck drivers was actually 34%,” says Bottle.

“If you were to speak to those people who’ve returned to their home countries of Poland, Romania or wherever, they might struggle to unpick whether that was directly as a result of COVID or Brexit, but the upshot is that people did go home and they haven’t come back.”

Data from Indeed suggests that Brexit is a factor: the number of jobseekers from the EU has fallen by a third since the end of 2019, while the number of people applying from outside the EU is practically unchanged.

Are companies raising wages to attract new workers?

At first glance, it appears that only moderate wage hikes are happening.

The average hourly wage for a loading and stocking job is now £11, which is 5.2% higher than it was in January.

While the median wage in cleaning and sanitation has only increased 3.3% since the start of 2021, despite a 2.2% rise in the national living wage in April.

But according to Ms Bottle, companies are now “routinely” giving overnight pay rises of 20% to 30% for some warehouse work.

Pawel Adrjan, Indeed’s head of research in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that this reflects a premium being put on specialised workers like HGV drivers and forklift operators.

“The same can’t be said for occupations with lower qualification requirements like cleaning, where pay is stagnant and employers could be sitting tight waiting for pinch points to clear rather than hike wages,” he says.

The Indeed data shows that forklift drivers have seen a steady wage increase over the past few months, while wages for caretakers are unchanged, despite having the same average pay at the start of 2021.

Pay rises are only a short-term fix, Mr Adrjan warned.

“A whack-a-mole approach of increasing wages in some sectors might help tackle short-term hiring challenges but it can translate into higher prices across a wide range of goods and services and does little to protect consumers’ wallets,” he said.

“A longer term strategy is required to address persistent shortages in sectors like care, nursing and technology, that are vital to creating a genuine high-skilled, high-wage economy.”


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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