The hospitality sector could be at risk of a shortage of workers should the Government push ahead with a proposal to prioritise high-skilled migrants, trade body UKHospitality (UKH) has warned.

Prime Minister Theresa May has declared, in recent BBC Radio 4 interview, that high-skilled workers would be prioritised when free movement is ushered out by Brexit next year. Low-skilled migration, which many labour, and hospitality sectors rely on, will significantly decrease.

Her announcement follows recommendations made in a report into migration from European Economic areas (EEA). Three million people are currently employed in the hospitality sector, but trading body UKHospitality said 90% of these roles could not be filled under May’s structure. The publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report received a critical reaction from the industry, with UKH saying the sector needed extra support from foreign workers.

UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said there were “mounting concerns” for the future of the sector’s workforce, which contains a large proportion of migrants.

“A system based solely on high skills and high wages will not work for hospitality where we have labour shortages. Many hospitality businesses have struggled to find willing British workers, and, with changing demographics and low unemployment, we are facing the very real danger of chronic skills shortages.”

Around 50% of hospitality employees are young people and the potential of a demographic shift means there will be fewer 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK within a few years.

UKHospitality said it would press for a transition period and “for a sensible and pragmatic lower-skilled migrant worker route” to allow businesses to adapt

Nicholls said: “UKHospitality has repeatedly flagged that is it illogical to place so much emphasis on the economic worth of individuals, rather than the wider benefits they bring to the UK.”

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