Improving living standards in countries such as India could make it harder to tempt foreign IT workers to the UK, a new report has warned.
By 2012, 19,000 extra migrant workers will be required by the IT and telecommunications sector and foreign IT workers will contribute £16.2bn to the UK economy. But the number of skilled migrants coming into the UK will start to level off this year, as India's fast-growing economy retains more and more of its home-grown talent.
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The Future Flows report, compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of recruitment firm Harvey Nash, said the IT sector would continue to rely on workers from abroad as demand for e-commerce and software specialists rises.
Most IT workers have arrived from India, which has its own dynamic IT sector and workers who are experiencing improving living standards. The report warned, "India has a rapidly growing economy and IT professionals may become harder to attract."
The report said the domestic market could not have managed the fast growth in demand for computing and IT skills over the past decade without the support of migrants.
It said, "The almost universal roll-out of computing and internet facilities increased the demand for personnel with information technology skills. The domestic market could not meet these needs and therefore the population of highly skilled international software professionals has jumped by 26,000 in the past seven years. These software professionals have predominantly arrived from India which has a large number of graduates studying information technology."
The IT sector has the second-highest share of skilled migrant workers. The dot.com crash led to a fall in numbers in 2001 but since 2004 growth has picked up again. This growth is expected to peak in 2008 and then level off as the political and economic climate changes.