Rise in UK work permits sparks alarm

Rise in UK work permits sparks alarm

Summary: Number of visas issued to overseas IT workers has risen by a third, raising concerns that the scheme is being used to import cheap labour

TOPICS: Networking

The number of work permits allowing foreign IT workers to come to the UK has increased by a third in the last year, raising fears the scheme is being abused to import cheap labour.

Work Permits UK, the Home Office body responsible for visas, has revealed that 33,756 permits were issued to overseas IT workers in the last 12 months — up 32 percent on the 25,000 the previous year.

Most of the visas — 79 percent — were granted to Indian IT workers, and the number of techies coming to the UK from India increased by 47 percent to 26,835 in the past year.

The figures were obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (Atsco), which is concerned at the high level of intra-company transfers, where companies relocated their IT staff between offices in different countries.

Intra-company transfers accounted for three-quarters of all the work permits granted and Atsco claims some companies are using this to import cheap labour from overseas rather than use UK IT workers — a phenomenon dubbed "onshore offshoring".

Ann Swain, chief executive of Atsco, said in a statement: "This is being driven by cheap labour costs, not necessarily skills shortages within the UK. The Home Office should vet applications much more thoroughly but it needs additional resources."

Swain said the concern is that with the Home Office inundated with applications, some organisations are only "paying lip-service" to the legal requirement to thoroughly search for candidates within the UK.

She said: "The irony is that while low-skilled IT jobs are being shipped to India, highly skilled Indian IT professionals are coming to the UK to take up managerial roles."

Trade union Amicus also warned the IT work permit scheme is being abused to import cheap tech labour at the expense of resident UK IT professionals.

The figures obtained by Atsco also reveal the scale of the increase in IT work permits over the last decade, from just 1,827 in 1995.

Topic: Networking

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • onshore offshoring - cheap labour

    And they only JUST realised - what does it take? This was obvious ages ago when offshoring became popular.
    Well done - a good way to make the UK economy go bust and the IT industry to become as down-trodden as the NHS - yeah good one! No wonder all the British It staff are off to Oz - I don't blame them.
    CEO's and their Ivory Towers are just become too common - why don't the CEOs take a paycut and feel the wrath of personal budgeting rather than employing cheap labour and rendering British skill useless??
    Of course (ironically) it is legal - c'mon!
  • I am not surprised by this.

    I am amazed that there is any surprise in this. The whole model for IT Development in the UK is moving towards a lower cost offshore model. As part of this offshore model there is a need for workers from the Indian Outsourcers to come over to the UK to act as co-ordinators for the work offshore. In the case of more complicated projects Co-ordinators from the Outsourcer are required to come to the UK to either gather the requirements from the customers and to then go back offshore to develop the solution or for iterative project development bring the whole team onshore develop in the Uk and then move the support offshore. This is why a large number of permits are needed. Whether it is more efficient or cost effective in the long term is up for debate.
  • Overseas workers brought to the UK on a Work Permit are NOT cheaper

    I process work permits for an IT firm and the legal requirements are that you must pay the individual the same rate as a UK 'resident worker' or if still being paid on an overseas payroll must supplement their normal pay with allowances. The Home Office actually sets minimum salaries for IT professionals on work permits. http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/businessandcommericaloccsheet/occsheetitoccsheets.pdf?view=Binary

    This means that if the company also pays relocation costs the individual may in fact be more expensive than hiring a UK resident, or someone from Eastern Europe where the salary requirements are just the minimum wage rules (although of course a UK IT Worker would request a market rate salary).

    The issue is that the Home Office does not appear to actually check whether the individual is being paid at the rate stated on the work permit as the only time they have view of this is when the individual applies for an extension to their leave to remain on the basis of the work permit being extended and has to provide proof of earnings. If they moved to another job, or were sent back to their home country on the expiry of the work permit I doubt the Home Office would actually know.
  • They bring them in the name of KT

    The number of people coming over to UK for Knowledge Transfer [KT] has really gone up recently. Previously they used come on business visas, now they have started coming on Work Permits for 2 years or so.

    The amount of money they get paid is absolutely ridiculous. A graduate programmer gets 30K on an average in this country, where as a person coming over to a client location for KT is just the same. But the level of experience and knowledge these people who come over are that of an IT consultant, had he/she been a UK national would have been earning double if not more.

    There has to be a way to check this.
  • I love it

    I love this...you british a..holes are getting screwed by people whom you look down upon as third world country....some day Indians will rule you like u ruled them for 150 years!!! Doesnt feel good does it??