Foreign IT workers swamp UK at three times the rate of dot-com boom
By Olinka Koster
Last updated at 5:41 PM on 08th March 2009
Tripled: The number of foreign IT staff obtaining work permits has increased to more than 35,000 despite the economic downturn
Nearly three times as many foreign IT workers entered the UK last year than during the dot-com boom, new figures reveal.
Despite the economic downturn, 35,430 UK work permits were issued to non-EU IT workers in 2008, compared to 12,726 in 2000 when the UK was gripped by a massive IT skills shortage.
The huge intake from abroad is leading to thousands of UK IT workers being laid off, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.
It said the figures show that the severity of the economic downturn and 'tougher new immigration system introduced last year had 'barely dented' the influx of non-EU IT workers coming to the UK.
Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, said: 'It seems crazy that with the economy in a severe downturn and thousands of IT workers having already lost their jobs, we are still bringing three times as many foreign IT workers to the UK than during the dot-com boom when we had a chronic skills shortage.
'The economic slowdown and supposedly 'tougher' new points based immigration system seem to have had very little effect on slowing the influx of foreign IT staff into the UK.
'A few years ago this may have been overlooked, but with IT jobs much scarcer, this is now a contentious issue.'
The vast majority of non-EU IT workers coming to the UK – 80 per cent – are classed as intra-company transfers, which is where companies relocate IT staff between offices in different countries.
There is currently no requirement for companies to advertise vacancies in the UK before bringing workers in on intra-company transfers.
In light of the significant increase in unemployment in the IT sector in the UK, APSCo said the Government should review this rule and consider making companies tap into the UK labour market first.
Most of the foreign IT workers are software engineers and systems analysts.
'They are not coming here to answer phones on help desks, but are taking highly skilled and well paid jobs,' said the association.
According to APSCo, 'offshoring' IT jobs to low-cost overseas locations, which is likely to accelerate during the downturn as organisations look to cut their budgets, is eroding the IT skills base in the UK.
This was making it easier for organisations to justify importing IT skills from abroad, it said.
'Offshoring has eaten away at the bottom rungs of the skills ladder, making it much harder to get the experience needed for the mid-level jobs which foreign companies are bringing workers into the UK to fill,' said Miss Swain.
'If anything we are going to see more entry-level IT jobs sent offshore in 2009 as recession bites.
'Is it any wonder that seven per cent fewer students leave British universities with IT
qualifications than five years ago when so many jobs are going offshore?'
The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Home Office, revealed that the number of foreign IT workers coming to the UK last year fell by eight per cent from its high point of 38,450 in 2007.
Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below?
And now we are thinking of offering these people AMNESTY…In this area we are swamped by foreigners and if the idiots who are offering them freedom to stay, just cleared our little area and sent them back to where they belong,life would become more comfortable, as it is we are over-run with all sorts, and none of them appear to be doing any work as they are in the shops spending money, whose money? OURS of course as we support them in their chosen lives.
Click to rate Rating 21
– Katie, Stoke, 09/3/2009 08:13
I've seen a great deal of them, Indian mostly and all consultants – programming skill is variable, mostly medium skilled and with little initiative or communication skills. Even the govt. does havent rules within the employment of them within the civil service, but more work goes overseas by being outsourced – because its cheaper.
Click to rate Rating 30
– brian, london, 09/3/2009 08:08
Perhaps we should start recruiting our mps from aboad as well. Let's start with a new PM and chancellor
Click to rate Rating 38
– bob holmes, Axbridge England, 09/3/2009 07:41