European cities woo English-speaking IT talent

Organisations in major European cities have upped their search for English-speaking talent, including IT professionals, since the UK’s referendum on EU membership

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The number of English-speaking jobs advertised in Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam has jumped since the UK’s Brexit referendum in June 2016, with the German capital looking for the most tech professionals.

Continental European cities have made no secret of their desire to attract business professionals, including those in IT, and post-Brexit referendum data shows English-speaking IT pros are also a target.

Research by German recruitment website Joblift showed that demand for English-speaking professionals in all three cities grew more quickly than the job market as a whole, with Berlin showing the biggest appetite for such candidates.

Although the research covers roles across all sectors, the tech sector, particularly in London, is attracting envious attention. Tech hubs across Europe are eager to attract the best talent and are targeting British talent as well as EU citizens currently working in the UK.

In Berlin, just over 10,000 vacancies for English speakers have been advertised since the UK referendum. These have increased at a rate of 3% a month compared with the overall jobs increase of 2% a month.

A total of 3,103 English-speaking jobs advertised in the German capital were directly concerned with tech, and these jobs have been increasing by an average of 4% a month. The top-ranking jobs advertised were: intern (524), web developer (423) and software developer (230).

In a recent interview with Computer Weekly, the founder of business startup Lemoncat, which is using technology to disrupt the catering sector, said one of the reasons the company set up in Berlin was the affordable cost of living for potential employees.

“What I like about Berlin is that it is one of the most comfortable European capitals for people in the tech industry to live in,” said Lemoncat founder Doreen Huber. “Compared to Paris and London, people can still live in the city centre. There are big universities, thousands of students in the city, many international people.”

Read more about the battle for tech talent

  • Despite Brexit, the UK capital is still a popular destination for technology workers migrating from both inside and outside the European Union.
  • Tech industry group TechUK has set out a five-point plan urging the government to work with the IT sector in a post-Brexit UK.
  • IT contractors in the UK are in increasing demand and are getting longer contracts, amid uncertainty around Brexit and a skills shortage.

Huber added: “Berlin is very attractive for startups because they can find affordable people that speak many different languages. This means they can go international easily.”

According to the Joblift figures, Paris has seen the biggest increase in English-speaking jobs, with an average monthly increase in advertised roles of 4%, with a total of 6,510 posted since the referendum. This compares with a 1% monthly rise in the number of jobs advertised in the city overall.

In Paris, since the UK referendum, the main English-speaking IT jobs advertised have been: intern (673), software developer (530) and SAP consultant (264).

The French capital has had some success in attracting major investments. Last year, GE chose Paris as the location for its startup hub, known as GE Digital Foundry Europe, which was set up last summer. This is GE’s first digital-focused hub in Europe, with California and India its main locations before this.

The hub’s role is to select and support startups as they develop applications for GE’s industrial internet analytics platform, known as Predix.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam has seen an average 3% increase in the number of English-speaking jobs advertised, compared with a 1% increase in total jobs.

More than 8,000 English-speaking tech jobs have been posted in the Netherlands capital since 23 June 2016. The main roles advertised were: software engineer (803), intern (671) and web developer (445).

Amsterdam has been boosted by government policies in its attempt to become a leading European tech hub. Speaking to Computer Weekly in 2015, the then deputy mayor of Amsterdam, Kajsa Ollongren, who is now deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, said there was an urgent need for the city government to act to attract talent to its startup scene.

“One of the first things I noticed when I started in June 2014 was that we had lots of things going on in the startup scene, but no policies or programmes,” she said. “It wasn’t really on the agenda.”

Startup visa

Amsterdam offers a startup visa to help companies bring in new staff, and has a rule that means foreign staff pay less income tax. “If you need talent, we have it here, and if we don’t have it, we will make it easy for the talent you need to come and live and work here,” said Ollongren.

Beyond these three EU capitals, governments in countries such as Finland, Denmark and Sweden are keen to use a combination of tax-friendly policies, tech-savvy labour pools and low-cost green energy to lure tech firms.

UK-based startups will at least be looking into the option of opening in an EU country to retain access to the single market once the UK leaves the EU. At a recent House of Lords EU committee meeting, Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates – a network of entrepreneurs and tech experts that support the UK tech startup sector – warned of dire consequences for tech startups after Brexit, particularly those in the fintech sector. He stopped short of telling these firms to move their headquarters to an EU country, but recommended that they set up a presence.

However, figures reveal that the UK, and London in particular, is still attractive to IT talent from abroad. According to data analysis by mayor of London-led agency London & Partners, the number of IT workers coming to work in the UK from abroad has increased in each of the past five years, and these workers are vital for filling the UK’s skills shortages.

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

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 than second-placed Paris.

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