Scottish seafood processors increasingly reliant on non-UK workers

Published on
January 4, 2018
Sorting pelagic fish

Fifty-eight percent of employees at Scottish seafood processing businesses are now from the non-United Kingdom European Economic Area (EEA), up from 37 percent of the sector’s workforce in 2016, a new government report has found.

The study, “Employment in Scotland’s Seafood Processing Sector,” looked into the employment patterns of non-U.K. workers across 18 Scottish processors, and found that 86 percent of all employees in the processing sector worked on permanent contracts and the majority of these were from non-U.K. EEA countries, largely coming from Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. 

This demonstrates how dependent the sector is on EEA workers, the Scottish government said.

Previous U.K.-wide figures from the Seafish Industry Authority estimated 42 percent of the workforce were non-U.K. EEA nationals.

All processors reported they were dependent on lower-skilled, non-U.K. EEA workers. However, they also said non-U.K. EEA employees were skilled for the industry and had the skills and experience to work efficiently and safely.

The processors in the sample highlighted potential labor market impacts from the U.K. exit from the EU and concerns that it could directly affect their businesses survival.

“This study shows how highly dependent the Scottish seafood processing sector is on EEA workers, and raises concerns from processors that Brexit could threaten their businesses’ survival,” said Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s rural economy secretary. “With the majority of EEA employees working on permanent contracts, and likely to be living here on a long-term basis, processors are rightly concerned for the future and the potential loss of skilled and experienced food processing employees."

The most recent figures (from 2015) found that Scotland’s seafood processing sector employed 7,500 people, contributed almost GBP 1.6 billion (USD 2.2 billion, EUR 1.8 billion) in turnover and generated GBP 304 million (USD 411.7 million, EUR 342.2 million) for the Scottish economy.

“This study backs up recent analysis which found EU nationals contribute more than GBP 4.4 billion (USD 6 billion, EUR 5 billion) a year to our economy and shows exactly why we value the contribution they make in our communities," Ewing said. "We will continue to show EU nationals that they are welcome here and call for free movement of people, which is clearly in the best interests of Scotland and the U.K. as a whole.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500