UK IT workers facing tough competition from foreign recruits

After the recent trend of outsourcing IT jobs, many companies are taking things one step further and importing mid-level workers straight to their offices in the UK. The number of imported IT workers has steadily increased over the past few years, and this year's numbers show no sign of the trend slowing down.

The number of foreign IT workers coming to the UK to work increased 14 per cent in the last year, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo).

Last year, 38,450 work permits were issued to foreign IT workers. That number, which only includes workers from outside the EU, represents an increase of 209 per cent over the last five years.

"Organisations have been offshoring UK IT jobs in order to cut costs, but now they are exploiting the leaky visa system to import cheap labour from abroad," Ann Swain, chief executive of ATSCo, said.

Most of the workers (82 per cent) come from India, with the US in a very distant second place. The majority of these workers are intra-company transfers who multinational organisations move between offices.

Importing IT workers from other markets may be cheaper and easier, but ATSCo believes that the practice is harming IT professionals already in the UK.

"Our concern is that the British IT workforce is being bypassed and that this is damaging the long-term competitiveness of the UK IT industry," said Swain, "Is it any wonder so few students are choosing IT when entry-level jobs are being sent offshore and workers are being brought in from overseas for mid-level positions?"

Although companies are required by law to search for candidates within the UK before turning to foreign labour markets, this process is not a very stringent one.

"With the Home Office inundated with applications, the concern is that some organisations are only paying lip service to the legal requirement to thoroughly search for candidates within the UK," Swain said.