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IT industry more reliant on non-UK workers than economy as a whole

The UK IT sector is more reliant on workers from other countries than the average for other sectors.

Non-UK citizens make up 13% of the country’s digital technology sector workforce, compared with an average of 10% across the UK economy as a whole.

According to a report by Tech City UK, which looked at data for the four years from 2011 to 2015, the non-UK workers are better qualified than their British colleagues, with 17.6% of non-EU workers and 12.5% of EU workers educated to Masters and PhD level, compared with 10.5% of Brits.

Although non-EU workers make up a larger part of the non-UK IT workforce, the recruitment of EU nationals increased 4-6% more quickly than that of non-EU workers over the four-year period.

In London, 31% of IT workers originate from outside the UK, compared with 10% or less in other regions. There has been little change in the proportion of non-UK citizens working in IT outside London since 2011, with 87% of the IT workforce outside London made up of Brits in 2015, compared with 89% in 2011.

George Windsor, senior insights manager at Tech City UK, said: “We know that entrepreneurs are concerned about the extent to which tech communities depend on a flow of talent from EU and non-EU countries to run their businesses. By collating an accurate picture of the mix of nationalities in the sector, we can pinpoint where pressures might exist in the future. This is the start of a programme of work from Tech City UK that will monitor the talent and workforce mix, using the insights gained to help more digital tech businesses fulfil their potential.”

It is not just employees who are coming from overseas, but people investing money in establishing companies, too. Evidence from DueDil shows that 21% of UK tech company founders are non-UK nationals.

Many IT startups are attracted to London because of its deep talent pool of people from all over the world. The government’s current course on Brexit is jeopardising this, with many skilled EU IT professionals being put off coming to the UK and some even leaving.

Read more about UK IT skills shortages

According to a report from Deloitte published  in June, 47% of highly skilled workers from the EU who are currently working in the UK are considering leaving in the next five years – and 15% are planning to leave in the next 12 months.

Sub-sectors of the IT industry, such as artificial intelligence (AI), could be hit hard if overseas workers decide post-Brexit that the UK is not the place for them. Since 2014, demand for the software developers and machine learning engineers who create AI software has increased by 485%, and today there are twice as many roles available than there are people to fill them, according to data from job site Indeed. In fact, there are 2.3 jobs for every qualified candidate in the UK.

Read more on Diversity in IT