The nationality of workers in the UK tech industry – Tech Nation Talent: Part 1

George Windsor, October 11, 2017 1 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech City UK website.

We’ve published the first in-depth look at mix of nationalities in the UK digital tech workforce

  • Tech Nation Talent report shows non-UK workers made up 13% of the digital tech workforce versus 10% in the wider economy in 2015
  • Digital tech workers from outside the UK are significantly better qualified with 17.6% of non-EU workers in tech having a Masters or PhD, versus 10.5% for UK workers and 12.5% for EU workers
  • Non-EU workers account for a larger share of employment in the digital tech industries than EU workers – however, employment for EU nationals has grown faster than non-EU nationals from 2011 – 2015, by 2 percentage points over the five years from 2011 to 2015.

Read the full report online Today we launch a series of indepth reports looking at one of the digital tech sector’s biggest challenges: talent. We’ll be publishing a report every month for the next four months, each looking at different factors affecting talent in the tech industry. Our first Tech Nation Talent report looks at where workers in the digital tech industry have come from between 2011 and 2015. We begin by looking at the pipeline of UK talent at a time when uncertainty around Brexit negotiations is provoking concern about a shortfall in talent if the industry’s ability to hire from abroad is curtailed.

Other reports, to be published before the end of the year, will look at:

Vibrant and diverse: the mix of UK’s tech talent

In most cities in the UK and, particularly in London, we live and work in communities that are made up of people from far more countries and backgrounds than our parents did.

The digital tech community will feel, to many people who work in it, particularly international.

However, there is a shortage of reliable data on non-UK workers in the digital tech industries. As we go forward and people want to know how Brexit is changing the talent pool it becomes even more important to have a reliable source of data and a solid benchmark from which to measure change, should it occur.

Today Tech City UK is publishing a study in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta which reveals the mix of nationalities working in our sector. The data is collated from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Annual Population Survey, which is the basis for the UK government’s official statistics on the labour force. By necessity these figures are backwards looking, detailing the mix of nationalities from 2011 to 2015. However they will serve as a benchmark from which to map the evolution of this fast-growing sector which now employs close to 1.7m people and is growing at twice the pace of the rest of the economy.

The main findings are that:

These figures underline the fact that the talent issue in the digital sector is not just a Brexit one. EU workers make up a smaller proportion than non-EU workers. This should inform the discussion as the UK tries to build trade with global markets.

From the research, we can also see that the international nature of the tech workforce is a positive for the UK economy as a whole, in that the UK tech industry attracts a high calibre and skilled workforce. Attracting a highly skilled, highly educated workforce is what most developed economies want to do because it increases productivity and produces higher tax receipts for the public finances.

One more figure stands out. In 2011, outside London, UK workers made up 89% of those employed in the digital tech sector. That figure, by 2015, had only decreased by 2 percentage points to 87%. The big impact of EU and non-EU workers has largely been in the capital.

The digital tech sector has affected almost everyone’s lives in the last six years, most notably through the move to mobile and almost blanket smartphone adoption. New services providing transport, food and banking have come out of nowhere and are being adopted enthusiastically, but the nature of tech employment for the greater part of the country has not changed dramatically.

Dr. 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.”

This is the first in a series of reports from Tech City UK on the state of talent in the UK’s digital tech sector. Read the full report online @TechCityUK to keep up to date with our latest research. 

Data & research, talent, Talent Report: Part 1