Immigration Policy in UK and US could Damage Tech Innovation

Although we have had some respite from the Brexit chatter in recent weeks while MPs take their annual Summer recess, this hasn’t put an end to the discussion, or the surveys. The latest survey, this time published by the international recruiter Hired suggests that tech workers are no longer looking fondly at the United Kingdom as a place to set down roots. The survey was commissioned in response to reports that Donald Trump plans to cut legal immigration in half in the next 10 years. This move could threaten the future of the tech industry in the US, which employed more than 6.7 million workers in the US in 2016.

The survey asked 362 tech workers based in the US their opinions on the state of the tech industry in the wake of Trump’s comments. 84% of those surveyed said they believe that immigration drives innovation. Although the new policies haven’t come into action yet, this hasn’t stopped tech companies from letting these shape their hiring practices. Search data from Indeed has already shown a downward trend in job seekers from outside the US seeking jobs in the country. It’s unlikely that Britain will fare much better in the coming years as Theresa May has called for similar restrictions and has pledged to limited immigration to 100,000 per year.

This has had a visible impact on the UK’s tech industry, and only 6% of those surveyed by Hired said that the United Kingdom would be their top choice for relocation. There have been stark warnings that a hard Brexit could starve the UK tech sector of the workers it needs to thrive. UK workers hoping to work in startup hubs throughout Europe would also be negatively impacted by any changes to the current freedom of movement rules. This is serious cause for concern for the economy as a whole, not just those employed in the tech industry. In March of this year, the tech sector in the UK was growing faster than the UK economy as a whole and 72% of investment was made outside of London.

Of those US workers surveyed by Hired, the majority cited Canada as the best choice for relocation, while Germany beat France and The Netherlands as the top European destination, likely fuelled by the thriving tech scene in Berlin.

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