Tech City UK today (11th October 2017) published a study in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta which reveals the mix of nationalities working in the UK tech 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:

The digital tech sector has a higher proportion of non-UK nationalities working in it than the rest of the UK economy as a whole. Non-UK nationalities are 13% in digital tech v 10% in the wider economy.

Non-UK nationals have a higher share of Master’s and PhD qualifications compared to UK nationals. 17.6% of non-EU workers have a Master’s or PhD, while 12.5% of EU workers have a Master’s or PhD.

London and the South-East have a higher share of the digital tech workforce comprised of EU and non-EU workers. In London 31% of the digital tech workforce were born outside the UK and in the South East the figure is 12%.

In all other regions, non UK digital tech workers make up no more than 10% of the workforce.

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.

There is evidence that some tech companies have a much higher share of international workers than the rest of the digital workforce. There is also evidence from DueDil that a high share of founders, 21%, are non-UK nationals.

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, one can 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.

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 here.