The United Kingdom faces a shortfall of 61,200 nurses to fill nursing jobs by 2050 due to skills shortages, an ageing workforce and restrictive migration policy, according to Randstad Care, the specialist recruiter.


  • The UK workforce will have a 3.1m person deficit by 2050 if skills shortages are not addressed
  • Nursing sector expected to face third biggest shortfall of workers in the UK  - with social worker jobs in sixth place
  • Work related emigration has risen 16% since 2007 while work related immigration has fallen 24%
  • Number of international nurses registering in UK falls 75% since peak in 2001


The UK workforce as a whole will have a deficit of 3.1m by 2050, a figure which represents 9% of the required workforce. Using employment rates from the most recent European population analysis from Eurostat,
the statistical office of the European Union, as a measure of demand, Randstad analysed the projected changes in UK population and working age rate for 2050 to establish the gap between employment demand and
workforce supply.

The analysis showed that with a population of 74.5m, in 2050 the UK will require a workforce of 35.4m to meet demand. However, will a pool of just 45.1m people (60.5% of the population) forecast to the eligible to work in 2050, even if the employment rate matches pre-downturn levels of 71.6%, an ageing population will leave the UK with only 32.3m people in employment – 3.1m short of the 35.4m required to meet demand.

Care jobs sector one of the most severely impacted

Randstad also forecast the workforce shortfall across some key professions. Nurses represent 2% of the UK workforce whilst social workers represent 0.3%, assuming these proportions remain constant, by 2050, the UK will have a deficit of 61,200 nurses and 10,600 social workers.

The education sector will be the worst affected with a projected shortfall of 128,000 teachers, followed in second place by the construction world, with a deficit of 66,800 workers.

Profession Projected Shortfall (2050)
Teachers: 128,000
Construction: 66,800
Nurses: 61,200
Qualified Engineers: 36,800
IT and Tech: 33,300
Social Workers: 10,600
Qualified Accountants: 10,200
Solicitors/Lawyers: 9,500

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Public Services, said: “No one can question the importance of the healthcare sector and while our projections for the size of the nursing workforce are conservative, they paint a concerning picture for the UK’s future welfare. Unless we can plug the employment gap, the healthcare sector is under threat. Social work is a tough job and one that holds enormous responsibility.

The smaller teams are and the leaner departments become, the greater that responsibility and the more likely it is that life or death mistakes could be made. Social workers are already absolutely stretched to capacity and feel they do the job of 1.5 people. They simply can’t do the work of another 10,000. Planning must start now to ensure adequate people resources are in play to avoid serious consequences

We also already know from the increasing requests we see every day to supply nurses for urgent same day cover, that the service is under severe strain. If it is unable to perform efficiently over the coming decades, there will serious consequences, not only for the country’s health, but the knock on effects of the government having to fund an understaffed service.”

The care sector as a whole is suffering shortages across many skill areas and migration is one of the key reasons for the deficiency. Since 2007, overall work related emigration from the UK has risen 16% while work related immigration has fallen 24% over the same period. The combination of poor economic performance and changes to immigration policy have made the UK a less attractive place to work among the world’s most talented professionals.

The NHS has also had to deal with a significant drop in the number of international nurses coming to work in the UK. In 2011/2012 approximately 4,000 international nurses were admitted to the UK nursing register. This is a 75% fall since the peak in 2001 when around 16,000 international nurses were admitted.

“cuts to funding have forced many UK nurses to consider a move abroad"

Indeed, the Royal College of Nursing has cited that the UK has moved from a situation of net inflow of nurses to a position of net outflow in recent years, meaning that more nurses are moving abroad than are coming to the UK with the main destinations being Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Victoria Short, said: “Cuts to healthcare funding and workforce streamlining has forced many UK nurses to consider a move abroad in order to further their careers. This, coupled with a restrictive migration policy has left the UK nursing labour market overstretched and under-resourced.

“Unfortunately, the UK represents a much less attractive option for both domestic and overseas talent than it did a few years ago and without foreign talent bolstering the nursing workforce the sector will have to deal with a large black hole over the coming years. If migration policy is to remain prohibitive then there must be a push to incentivise and train new nurses into the workforce.”

For information on methodology and data sources please contact the press department.