There is still “red hot” demand for more staff in hospitality, despite improvements in the number of employment in the sector, CIPD research reveals.

Jon Boys, senior labour market economist at CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), said vacancies in accommodation and foodservices were almost twice the level of most other sectors.

“You can see it starting to soften a little bit, but vacancies are at a record high,” he told UKHospitality’s Skills & Workforce Event.

“While unemployment is relatively low, the demand for staff I would still describe as red hot.”

Boys broke down vacancies in the sector as a proportion of the size of the workforce, with accommodation and food services at 8.6%. The next closest sector is admin and support services on 4.8%.

“What this means is that the hospitality sector is trying to replace or expand its workforce at a greater extent than pretty much any other sector,” he said.

“There’s an incredibly high demand as a proportion of how many people work in that sector.”

CIPD research also revealed the proportion of foreign nationals that have been lost in the sector.

Between January-March 2020 and October-December 2022, the percentage of EU citizens working in hospitality in the UK has gone from 15% to 9.4% respectively.

That means the sector has seen a 5.6 percentage point drop in the proportion of people who are EU nationals.

“That just huge, it’s massive,” Boys said. “And that’s happened in a fairly short space of time, two and a half years.”

As well as losing EU nationals, the sector has lost additional value as these workers typically work longer hours, Boys said.

UK-born hospitality workers work an average of 25 hours, while European-born work 31, a six-hour difference.

With a recent paper suggesting a shortfall of 330,000 EU workers in the UK economy, that could arguably be closer to 400,000 people when considering typical hours worked, Boys said.

Another challenge for the sector is the average age of employees is by far the youngest of any other sector, at 35.

Boys said this is problematic as young people are working less then they used to.

“Young people really do not work very much now. Education and work just don’t mix, they used to have Saturday jobs and used to transition into work a bit sooner.”

Boys suggested that if we there was the same employment of young people today as there was 30 years ago, there would be an extra million people in work.

“This trend of increasing adolescence, more studying, transitioning into the labour market later, is taking millions of people out of the labour market,” he added.

“That’s something that organically hospitality would have been dealing with over the last 30 years, but it’s an interesting trend.

“It’s probably going to get even more difficult to rely on younger people.”