The government’s much awaited immigration white paper provides welcome clarity to the tech sector, which we know relies heavily on non-UK talent, but requires further consultation.
Britain needs talent
The proposed extension of the minimum earnings requirement of £30,000 to all skilled migrants may prove problematic and could affect tech companies’ abilities to recruit the staff they need. This is of particular concern as the tech sector is already suffering a severe talent shortage, with the majority of UK entrepreneurs citing talent as their biggest challenge. The issue is further complicated by the fact that many UK startups who might struggle to meet the salary threshold, opt for granting new hires an equity stake in their businesses in lieu of a higher starting salary, and we look forward to further government consultation in this area.
Tech businesses will welcome the removal of the cap on the numbers of skilled workers as well as the abolishment of the Resident Labour Market, as this was a burden on firms looking to hire talent quickly.
The white paper’s commitment to making the new immigration system accessible to all businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, is also important as tech businesses often struggle with the complexity and costs of navigating the current system.
Many of the UK’s most promising tech businesses have been built by non-UK nationals, including TransferWise and Farfetch. The tech sector’s ability to grow must be prioritised as it will help to future-proof our economy, and deliver highly productive well-paid jobs. We need to maintain and extend our position as a global tech hub, attracting the best and brightest from the whole world and not just the EU. To do this we must ensure that the UK does not lose out to countries like France and Germany that will continue to benefit from freedom of movement within the EU.
Tech Nation is working to address skills shortages, including initiatives to help entrepreneurs at every stage of their business’s journey from our free online learning platform, the Digital Business Academy, to Future Fifty, our late-stage programme with alumni that include companies such as Just Eat and Zoopla. The Tech Nation Visa, part of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, has also been successful in bringing experienced professionals and entrepreneurs from outside the EU, and it’s encouraging that the Home Office intends to expand this route in the future.
We will continue to consult with government and tech businesses on the proposed reforms, to ensure a skilled-based immigration system that is as streamlined and effective for the tech sector as possible.
- The digital tech sector is worth nearly £184bn to the UK economy, up from £170bn in 2016.
- The sector creates high value jobs, with average salaries £10,000 higher than in roles that don’t require digital skills.
- Tech is currently expanding 2.6x faster than the rest of the UK economy.
- Average UK tech salary is just over £35,000 (ASHE)
- But there is variation – the lowest mean tech salary in the UK is just over £19,000
- Tech leadership is highly international. 18% of tech directors are of non-British nationality, compared to 13% in all other sectors, and 13.8% in the UK population as a whole.
- Companies with diverse boards have 0.7% higher turnover. We also found that companies with internationally diverse boards raise 453% more investment than boards from a single country.