Part 1: International Talent /

Next steps

With the future of the UK’s relationship with Europe in a state of uncertainty, migration data has never been so key for the UK to renegotiate its relationship with Europe.

It is imperative that evidence on the international share of employment in fast growing and economically significant sectors like digital tech is published and brought to bear in the policymaking processes.

This report has shown that:

  • Employment in the UK’s digital tech industries has grown since 2011 with both the number of UK and non-UK workers accounting for this increase. Over this period non-EU workers have accounted for a larger share of employment in the digital tech industries than EU-workers.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, employment among EU nationals has grown faster than non-EU nationals rising from 4 per cent to 6 per cent, while non-EU national employment has remained stable at 7 per cent. The UK’s digital tech industries have a higher share of non-UK workers than the rest of the workforce as a whole (13 per cent vs 10 per cent).
  • Non-EU workers in the digital-tech industries, were more likely to have Master’s or PhD qualifications than EU and UK nationals.
  • In terms of digital tech sub-sectors, non-EU workers accounted for the highest workforce share in Computer Consultancy activities and Other IT and computer service activities at 9 per cent on average between 2011 and 2015.
  • There is significant regional variation, with London and the South East containing higher levels of international workers (both EU and non-EU nationals) in terms of absolute numbers and as a percentage of the workforce than other UK regions. London accounts for a significant proportion of digital tech employment, as shown in Tech Nation 2016.
  • 20 per cent of the London digital tech workforce is comprised of non-EU workers and 11 per cent from the EU. This compares to, for example, 5 per cent EU, 4 per cent non-EU in the East of England and 2 per cent EU, 3 per cent non-EU in the West Midlands – implying that international workers are particularly important for the capital’s digital tech industries.

There is also evidence that some tech businesses in the UK start-up ecosystem have an even higher share of their workforce (from founders to tech professionals) that is international, with a particular emphasis on workers from the EU. Furthermore, these companies employ thousands of people and collectively turn over billions of pounds.

25 per cent of Founders and CEOs in Tech City UK’s online survey reported that over 75 per cent of the workers in their company was an EU national, while 5 per cent of Founders stated that over 75 per cent of workers in the company were from outside of the EU.

This indicates that changes to freedom of movement, and other migration policy – which may limit future flows of skilled digital tech workers from outside the UK – could have a disproportionate impact on tech companies.

Research from DueDil on founder nationality indicates that 21% of UK tech startups are founded by non-UK nationals, of which 9% were founded by EU nationals.

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Research on non-EEA Tier 1 entrepreneurs shows the positive economic and labour market contributions of founders and owners under Tier 1 of the UK’s Points Based System (see Appendix 2) and the impact of these migrants beyond the labour market.

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The Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ report on the economic impact of Tier 1 entrepreneurs shows that the 1,580 sample of companies (of 13,746 business identified through Home Office Management Data) run by Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders employ just under 10,000 people, and collectively turn over £1.45 billion.

Read the report

Tech Nation Talent

A four-part series of reports on the talent and skills dynamics of the UK tech sector.


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International talent report Infographic