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London remains top city for migrating tech talent

Despite Brexit, the UK capital is still a popular destination for technology workers migrating from both inside and outside the European Union

London is the most popular city in Europe for technology workers migrating from overseas, according to research.

Mayor of London-led agency London & Partners analysed data from LinkedIn and Stack Overflow and found London is the most often chosen destination for tech professionals who want to live and work outside their home country.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said one of the contributing factors to this could be the number of global companies that have large offices in the capital. In 2017, Amazon announced plans to double its London research and development staff, Google said it would build a new London base for 7,000 employees and this year, Facebook will create 800 jobs at a new London office.

Khan said: “London is the tech capital of Europe and home to some of the best tech and creative minds from across the world. Global tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google continue to invest in London because of our city’s diverse international tech workforce, and our startup ecosystem is vibrant and innovative.”

The number of IT workers coming to work in the UK from abroad has increased in each year of the last five years, and these workers are vital for filling skills shortages in the UK.

LinkedIn data found that London ranked above Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris in the top five cities tech workers within the EU choose to migrate to, and is also ahead of all other European cities that tech professionals from outside the EU choose to move to for work.

Using data from the 50 million monthly visitors to developer community Stack Overflow, London & Partners also found there are more software developers in London than in any other European city. London has a developer population of 251,144 – almost 100,000 more developers than second-placed Paris.

But half of highly skilled workers have admitted they plan to leave the UK after it leaves the EU, with current Brexit negotiations failing to give tech leaders confidence in life after the EU.

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If Brexit does negatively affect the pipeline of tech talent coming into the UK, more needs to be done to ensure the UK can fill its own skills gaps with home-grown talent – something the government has tried to do by introducing a new computing curriculum and asking organisations about their digital skills needs to help shape policy.  

Khan added: “It is vital that London’s tech businesses continue to have unrestricted access to the best tech talent from Europe and the rest of the world. The best way to do this is for London and the UK to remain part of the Single Market and the Customs Union, and I will continue to lobby the government on this in order to protect our status as a global tech hub, while also investing in home-grown talent to ensure young Londoners share in the benefits of digital growth.”

Paris, which has a software developer population of 158,354, is the EU’s second most developer-populated city. It is also the fifth most popular city for European tech migrants, and the second most popular for tech workers from outside Europe.

But Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said London is still a prime location for technology talent because of its opportunities for growth, as well as its “diverse business landscape”.

He said: “Top talent is the lifeblood of a thriving tech ecosystem, and it is through access to tech professionals from around the world that London has been able to carve out its unique place in the global tech mosaic – despite lingering Brexit woes. As Brexit negotiations continue and questions over the future of UK immigration remain, the government must ensure that the influx of top tech talent from both Europe and more broadly remains on its current trajectory.”

In an attempt to make the UK more attractive to overseas technology talent in a post-Brexit world, the government announced towards the end of 2017 that it would expand the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas available each year and would commit more funding to support the tech sector.

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