Indian IT pros dominate work permits in UK

London, November 22:

IT professionals from India accounted for an overwhelming 85 per cent of the work permits issued to foreign IT workers in Britain during the last one year, official figures reveal. IT professionals from the US accounted for a distant second - five per cent. The work permit figures, uncovered by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo), show that 18,248 work permits were granted to Indian IT professionals in the year to June 2005, with 1,081 granted to American IT workers and 464 permits to Australian IT workers. “Skills shortages continue to be a major pull factor in bringing foreign IT workers to Britain, but the concern is that some organisations may be taking advantage of the visa system to import cheap labour from abroad,” said Ann Swain, chief executive of the ATSCo.

ATSCo said its findings, based on Home Office figures, are the first evidence that multinationals recruiting workers in low-cost economies and transferring them to high-cost ones — a phenomenon known as ‘onshore offshoring’ in the US — may have become widespread in Britain. The number of foreign IT professionals arriving in Britain on work permits has increased more than tenfold in the past 10 years, as large-scale IT projects — especially in the public sector — have created a huge demand for workers. According to figures from the home office, 22,000 foreign IT workers entered the country in the past year, compared with 1,827 in 1995. IT is now the second most popular profession for work permit allocations in Britain after nursing.

Among the large projects for which the IT professionals were employed included 6.2 billion pound programme to upgrade the National Health Service’s IT system, the 4 billion pound ministry of defence upgrade and the government’s drive to roll out electronic services for citizens. Swain said, “The transfer of jobs between Britain and India is now very much two-way traffic, while low-skilled IT jobs continue to be shipped to India, highly skilled India IT professionals are coming to Britain to take up managerial roles.”