THE proportion of EU workers in the UK’s hospitality sector has dropped significantly over the last two years, new data shows.

People from EU countries made up 37% of the workforce at more than 700 hospitality companies last month, down from 43% two years ago, according to software company Fourth.

The proportion of British workers in the sector increased from 46% to 51%, the data revealed.

“A potent combination of Britain’s departure from the EU and the devastating impact of the pandemic continues to significantly shake up the sector’s labour market,” said Fourth’s Sebastien Sepierre.

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Several restaurants across the UK have reported problems in finding staff in recent weeks, with some closing down or slashing services as a result. Thousands of workers in the sector are still furloughed, Fourth’s data shows.

It said 45% of staff on payroll are still on full or flexible furlough. Although this is the lowest since the scheme began last year, it still represents a large portion of the workforce.

“The much-publicised staffing crisis is proving hugely challenging for operators, as a consequence of a clear shrinking of the labour pool, in back-of-house roles in particular,” Sepierre said.

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“It remains unclear how long this disruption might last and how it will be resolved in the months ahead during the long road to recovery.”

The trend towards fewer EU workers looks set to continue as the right of Europeans to live and work in the UK is restricted after Brexit.

In June 63% of new starters in the sector were British, the highest figure since Fourth started measuring in 2016. EU citizens made up 28%, compared with 50% in January 2019.