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Foreign IT workers increase 14 percent

209 percent rise in non-European workers

The number of foreign IT workers entering the UK has jumped 14 percent in the last year, according to data from Work Permits UK, and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo).

Last year, 38,450 UK work permits were issued to foreign IT employees, compared to 33,756 a year earlier. The number of non-European workers has increased 209 percent over the last five years.

Most of the workers (82 percent) come from India. The majority of imported IT workers are classed as intra-company transfers, where multinational organisations move staff between offices in different countries.

"Organisations have been offshoring UK IT jobs in order to cut costs, but now they are exploiting the leaky visa system to import cheap labour from abroad," said Ann Swain, chief executive of ATSCo.

"There was a fear that support functions would be the thin edge of the wedge and that mid-level IT roles would go offshore next, but what is happening is quite different. Foreign IT workers are coming to the UK to take these mid-level roles."

But ATSCo warned that importing IT workers, while cheaper, is damaging the UK IT industry.

"The IT skills shortage issue is nowhere near as acute as during the dotcom boom, so why is it that more than 10 times more foreign IT workers are entering the country now than then? Our concern is that the British IT workforce is being bypassed and that this is damaging the long-term competitiveness of the UK IT industry," said Swain.

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