A government advisory group has proposed strict controls on the number of IT workers from outside the European Union allowed into the UK.
The high-level Migration Advisory Committee has not included IT workers on a concise list of careers that have a shortage of workers. This means it will be much harder for non-EU migrants working in IT to gain the marks necessary, under the points-based system, to enter and work in the UK.
Outsourcing firms are expected to be hit heavily if the government accepts the recommendations, as IT workers - not on the list - will have to score more highly on other points such as qualifications, age and prospective salary, in order to enter the country.
The news comes as analysts Forrester said many firms plan to increase their expenditure on outsourcing. Some 45 percent will spend more on applications outsourcing this year, and 43 percent are increasing their use of infrastructure outsourcing.
The list of careers that the MAC committee considers as 'in shortage' includes construction managers, chemical engineers, veterinary surgeons, secondary school maths and science teachers, skilled ballet dancers, skilled chefs, and skilled senior care workers.
It concluded that the IT occupations it examined - ICT managers, IT strategy and planning professionals, and IT user support technicians - are skilled, but it said that there was not a shortage of such workers. In its report, the MAC wrote: “Both the top-down and bottom-up evidence confirmed that these occupations are skilled.
“However, our analysis of the top-down evidence on shortage indicators showed that information and communication technology managers passed on just 1 out of 12 shortage indicators; IT strategy and planning professionals passed on just 2 out of 12; and software professionals passed on 3 out of 12 indicators. This does not constitute strong evidence of shortage.”
For its IT findings, it consulted the Information Technology Communications and Electronics Sector Advisory Panel, e-skills UK, the Sector Skills Council for IT and Telecoms, and the Professional Contractors Group.
The government will make a decision on the report in the next month. If it accepts the proposals, 700,000 employees in total will be covered by the list, rather than the one million under the previous list, the MAC said.
MAC member Dr Diane Coyle said: “There is a straightforward message in our report ... only those job titles which are skilled, in shortage and for which is it sensible to use immigrant workers to fill the shortages make it onto our list.”
Immigration minister Liam Byrne added: “Crucially, the points system means only the migrants with the skills Britain needs can come - and no more. Unlike made-up quotas, this stops Government cutting business off from the skills it needs when they need them.”