The Intelligence: UK – the third largest recruitment industry in the world

Thalia Ioannidou, Research Manager at the REC, looks at the UK's contribution to the global recruitment industry.

The UK has the third-largest recruitment industry in the world, according to the World Employment Confederation’s (WEC’s) ‘Economic Report 2020’. 

The report, which compares the recruitment industries in major economies across the world from Brazil to Australia, and from Italy to China, found that the total value of the global recruitment industry was £418.9 billion (€473.4 billion) in terms of sales revenue in 2018. That’s a rise of 2% on the year before. Agency work accounted for 80% of this, worth £334 billion (€377 billion). 

Our place in the world

This not only gives UK recruiters a sense of their contribution to the global recruitment market, but it also offers insights into how well the industry functions here compared to in other countries. UK recruiters are clearly making a huge contribution:      

• The UK is the third largest in terms of agency work sales revenues, behind only the USA and Japan. These three markets comprise over half of global sales revenues (54%). 

• It is the fourth-largest market in permanent recruitment globally, behind the USA, Australia and China. 

• The UK is the largest market in Europe, responsible for nearly 10% of all placements in the region. It generates 23% of all agency work sales revenues and 42% of sales revenues in the direct recruitment market.

Good recruitment, UK style

With economic uncertainty, skills shortages and regulatory reforms dominating the UK agenda, our contribution to the global recruitment market is testament to the work done by our recruiters. 

As our ‘Recruitment Industry Trends 2018/19’ report revealed, recruiters placed over a million people into permanent positions, generating £5.5 billion in revenues. There were more than 1.1 million temporary workers on assignment on any given day, generating £33.4 billion in revenues. This performance was achieved by 119,000 professionals across the country, part of a growing recruitment workforce. 

After prolonged uncertainty and subdued activity, employers are starting to make more hiring and investment decisions (‘JobsOutlook’, February 2020). How we leave the EU and on what terms will of course affect the recruitment market, but if the outstanding performance of the UK industry is anything to go by, recruiters will continue to demonstrate resilience and will respond to changing needs with agility. 

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