The number of jobs advertised for IT skills has fallen significantly in recent months, raising doubts about the accuracy of the Home Office's fast-track list of IT skills that are in short supply.
Under Home Office rules, companies can bring IT workers in to the UK from overseas without advertising posts in the UK if the new staff have skills recognised as being in short supply.
More than 20,000 work-permits have been issued to IT staff since January 2000, including 4,600 to software engineers, 2,500 to analyst programmers and 3,375 to programmers, according to Home Office figures.
However, the list of skills classified as being in short supply includes database specialists with C++, software engineers with SQL Server, Java and Oracle databases. These have shown significant decline in demand, according to research by Computer Weekly and SSP.
Contractors have raised concerns that some employers in the UK are exploiting the fast-track rules by hiring staff from overseas at lower rates, even though there are suitable UK workers that could fill the post.
The Professional Contractors Group has handed the Government a dossier of 30 cases where companies have shed UK staff and replaced them with lower-cost workers from overseas.
One contractor who works for a large financial organisation said, "Officially the company announced that it is to cut IT contract staff considerably. In fact, what is happening is that UK staff, both contract and permanent employees are being removed and replaced exclusively with people from the Indian subcontinent."
The Home Office said the occupation shortage list was reviewed at the end of last year and a number of categories of skills, including Oracle database administration, were being considered for removal.
It has a dedicated team to investigate examples of abuse and issue warnings about potential abuse.
Home Office fast-track skills list
The IT professionals earmarked for fast-track immigration by the Home Office are:
- Business analysts
- Network specialists
- C and C++ database specialists
- Active Server/Active X analyst programmers
Also earmarked are software engineers with these skills:
- SQL Server
- Oracle database administrator
- Broadvision e-commerce tools
- All CRM and CTI packages.