Could IBM's prediction of reverse IT offshoring be coming true?

Can it be true that overseas companies, including those in India, are demanding UK IT workers in increasing numbers?


Back in October I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post about why UK IT workers should not be worried about having their jobs offshored to developing nations because these economies will eventually employ  UK people. The post was in reaction to a study carried out by IBM, itself a serial offshorer of work to India particularly.


This is what IBM said: “The silver lining of globalization is that shift toward expansion will require companies to redirect their work force to locations that provide the greatest opportunities, not just the lowest costs, and at the same time re-imagine their management strategies to reflect an increasingly dynamic workforce.”


And according to an online marketplace that matches up freelancers with jobs, known as PeoplePerHour, this could be coming true. 


In the last three months PeoplePerHour has recorded  the busiest quarter it has ever seen in terms of overseas businesses wanting UK IT freelancers.


And the company says that as a result of job shortages in the UK, (partly due to the mass offshoring of IT work by corporates), many IT workers are going freelance.


According to PeoplePerHour in the last three months compared to the previous quarter there was a 771% increase in demand for UK IT freelancers in India and a 250% from Brazil. Meanwhile demand for these UK workers in the US went up 714%. I don’t have any numbers so the percentages might be related to very small numbers.


“There was a time when hiring freelancers to deliver digital work online was universally perceived as western businesses outsourcing to inexpensive offshore labour – particularly from the subcontinent or Eastern Europe,” says Thrasyvoulou. “However, we’re seeing the reverse happening more frequently than ever before. It’s partly due to the economic strength and growing confidence of the BRIC nations, but it’s also influenced by the positive reputation of British digital skills internationally. This is evidenced by the rise in demand for UK talent from mature markets also – most notably the US.”

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And what are the rates like? If you're competing with home workers from Brazil to Bangladesh, can you really charge enough to pay your UK tax, pension, NICs, mortgage, fuel costs etc? Or is it simply that there are thousands of unemployed UK IT staff who are desperately trying to earn something more than dole money until they figure out how to cope with their wrecked careers?

I have the actual figures now

The website was involved in contracts for 3310 UK IT freelancers in India in the last quarter. This compared to just 380 in the first three months of 2010.

Meanwhile there were 70 contracts arranged on the website for UK IT workers in Brazil compared to 20 in the same quarter last year.

The US’s developed economy was the biggest opportunity with 1140 UK IT professionals getting work there compared to only 140.


Were you able to establish exactly what type of UK IT freelancers they were? Were they British nationals or were they Indian migrant workers who had settled in the UK by taking residency at the end of their work visas and then gone back to India as freelancers?

I've got some figures too. From the PeoplePerHour website today:

£8 per hour for an experienced "applications developer who has had development experience with Microsoft's HealthVault".

£50 per day for an experienced "senior PHP developer".

From £10 to £50 per hour for a "programmer to help us develop firstly our own programming team but more importantly to develop a new project. Although we currently outsource it has become apparent we need an individual with a deep programming skill set".

Many of the IT jobs are relatively low-paid short term or piece work on websites, hence the frequent demand for PHP skills. The longer term roles or those demanding more skills/experience are more the kind of thing that would be advertised on sites like CW Jobs, or JobServe etc anyway.

So you might pick up some useful filler work while looking for a real job. But you're not going to be able to sustain a career like this.

Utter Rubbish. I have now lost my job twice due to offshoring. Offshoring is destroying the UK IT industry and it is the reason I have now left the industry for good.

Jobs are not coming back to the UK, they continue to be offshored in their thousands and rates and salaries are dropping. IT skills are now a commodity that can be bought cheaply in a global market. That is the hard and unpleasant truth.

I feel sorry for all the students blissfully unaware that they are wasting their time studying IT.

Why would anyone now choose a career in IT ?

What is the point of gaining a computing degree, attaining Microsoft and other professional certifications and committing to a career which requires the effort of constantly updating your skills when your earnings are now £8 per hour.

You can now earn more money driving a bus than doing a skilled IT job. So why bother putting the effort into a skilled IT career for such low rewards.

My advice to students ; change your course to a something other than IT.

My advice to people lucky enough to still have an IT job in the UK ; Start retraining for a different career and get out of IT before your job if Bangalored.

IT in the UK is finished.