Ten more countries will be joining the UK in the European Union soon, but what will this mean for the IT job market, asks Colin Beveridge.
In two months the European Union will get even bigger, as the 10 candidate countries finally join our club - bringing with them some interesting new dynamics for the UK’s IT economy.
I realise that much has already been written and broadcasted recently about the anticipated flood of so-called economic migrants, apparently eager to take advantage of the UK’s open door policy towards those seeking work here from the accession countries.
But, so far I haven’t seen any attempt to do an assessment of what impact the EU enlargement may have on our information technology sector, particularly the IT job market.
Please note that I have no political axe to grind over this matter, I simply believe that we better begin to think about how we might all be affected by the EU boundary changes, rather than sitting back and hoping that nothing will change our own circumstances. We all need to be aware of the threats and opportunities posed by the imminent expansion of the EU workforce.
So, here then are my own views on what might become quite a thorny issue over the next couple of years.
Let’s look at some of the opportunities for IT. Wearing my employer’s hat for a moment, I can see quite a few positive aspects - opening up prospects of potential cost savings in several ways.
For example, we will have much easier access to a wider pool of (much cheaper) technical staff, who will enjoy freedom of movement without the tawdry hindrance of work permits.
This is a very significant factor and, in the short term, I can see substantial downward pressure on IT salaries and day rates, especially in the technician categories.
Likewise, it will also become much easier for us to move even more development projects, data processing and response centres away from the higher cost base of the UK.
Companies that have, so far, fought shy of moving their technology stuff offshore to Bangalore, might not be so wary of Budapest or Prague.
Such a scenario is more or less bound to happen, we will have to at least consider Poland, Hungary and the other continental Europe countries as cost-saving opportunities, given the inexorable pressures on IT to deliver more value from less investment.
It looks like the expansion of the EU offers an encouraging outlook for IT employers.
But these financially attractive opportunities for the bosses will, inevitably, come only at a painful cost to the present IT workforce, especially those who have not previously been under threat from the offshoring trend.
For sure, we can’t be protectionist, and workers in many other sectors have already experienced the consequences of global economics, so why should IT professionals expect special treatment?
Of course, we won’t get any special treatment.
Harsh economics will always rule the day and our elected representatives will not bat an eyelid for our concerns over long-term job security and the diminishing intellectual capital of the IT community.
More than ever though, it is time for each of us to prepare our own contingency plans for a working life after IT. We might have no other option soon.
What do you think?
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Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org