The UK has thousands of years of rich history, from Stonehenge and Shakespeare to ancient castles and the Roman Baths. But it doesn’t quite boast the decades-long history of tech giants and startups that mark more mature tech hubs, like the Bay Area in the United States.
While the UK technology sector may lag behind the US, it’s a different story compared to Europe, where London is widely regarded as the capital of tech based on density of startups, talent and investors (beating both Berlin and Paris).
The UK’s diverse industries—ranging from finance to fashion to food—are shaking up the tech world, creating even more tech jobs and contributing to a rapid growth in the country’s developer talent pool, which is up nearly 20K since 2018 at 849,600 according to a report by Atomico. The UK tech sector even attracted more global investments in the first eight months of 2019 than it did during the whole of 2018.
But despite all this, both British and foreign job seekers are actually losing interest in UK tech jobs in favor of ones in mainland Europe. To unravel why, we looked at Atomico’s State of European Tech Report 2019 and new data from Indeed.com. Read on to discover who’s searching (and not searching) for tech jobs in Britain, and how the country’s tech talent pool is changing in response to economic and political factors.
Searches for UK tech jobs fall behind the rest of Europe
Searches for tech jobs in the UK accounted for 3% less of the total share of job searches (for both tech and non-tech jobs) from 2017 to 2019—the only European country to register a decrease in the share of tech job searches of the 11 countries Indeed studied.
This decline is especially striking when you compare it with tech talents’ interest in jobs in the rest of Europe. Over the same two-year period, for example, searches for tech jobs in Belgium increased by 76%, 45% in Portugal and 42% in Sweden.
When combined with the major tech worker shortage in high-level roles and the prospect of being cut off from Europe’s talent pool due to Brexit, this decrease in searches could make it even harder for British companies to source tech workers. However, it could mean less competition for job seekers looking to break into the UK tech scene.
Americans losing interest in British tech jobs
When we dive a little deeper into what’s causing this dip in the share of UK tech job searches, the data reveals a reduced level of interest in Americans looking for tech roles across the pond over the past three years.
In fact, the share of searches on Indeed’s UK site from the US decreased by 3.5%, from 17.1% in 2017 to 13.6% in 2019. In contrast, the number of American workers searching for tech jobs in the rest of Europe (i.e., excluding the UK) actually rose a bit from 8.6% to 9.4% since 2017.
This drop is likely due to uncertainty around the impact on immigration following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. According to Bill Richards, UK managing director at Indeed: “The slowdown in interest for UK tech jobs and the gains being made across Europe coincided with Brexit, suggesting the uncertainty about post-Brexit Britain could be eating into tech workers’ desire to work in the UK.”
Another possible reason for American tech workers’ disinterest in British jobs is that the UK has much lower tech salaries than the US. San Francisco tech workers, for instance, earn almost double compared to their UK counterparts—even when adjusted for COL. And since salary is often a huge motivator (and overseas relocation costs can add up quickly), many American are content to stay in the US, especially as equal wages on both sides of the Atlantic doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
Despite US-based workers’ losing interest in British tech jobs, the UK remains the most popular EU country for Americans taking their talents to Europe—even in the context of political uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Overseas talent from Asia gaining interest in UK tech jobs
Even though American interest in UK tech jobs is cooling, interest from tech pros in other parts of the world has remained strong. In fact, the UK appears to be attracting more overseas talent, with one in 10 clicks on UK tech jobs originating from abroad.
Clicks from countries outside Europe make up 6% of total clicks on those jobs, which is a slight increase since 2015. A large portion of these clicks have come from India, home to a large pool of tech workers. In fact, more than a fifth (20.9%) of all searches for British jobs made by India-based job seekers were for tech jobs.
India, along with the US, is among the countries with the highest number of visa applications for the UK’s technology sector. And with the debate over immigration in the US (and crackdowns on the H1B visa), the number of clicks from Indian nationals on US tech jobs was down 8% from 2018 to 2019, which shows that as interest in US tech jobs is decreasing, tech job seekers in India are increasingly turning to the UK for jobs.
This interest from India also comes on the back of a new UK-India Tech Alliance, signed in 2018, to keep immigration policies frictionless between the two countries, boost tech collaboration and promote the growth of tech skills in the fields of AI, machine learning, big data and cyber security.
Despite more searches for tech jobs in Europe, the UK wins in tech diversity
Progress with gender diversity has stalled across the broader European tech industry, despite public attention surrounding the issue and interventions from companies and the government to help move the dial. In fact, diversity in tech continues to be a major issue (and may actually be decreasing). According to Atomico’s report, 92% of funding went to all-male executive teams in 2019 vs 89% in 2015.
However, the UK tech sector has the most diversity out of all the European countries Atomico studied—at least when it comes to tech founders. Its survey of more than 1,200 tech founders from across Europe found that 21% self-identify as female, with the UK and Ireland having the highest gender diversity. Britain also has the highest number of immigrant tech founders (43%).
And while the overwhelming majority (84%) of founders in Europe self-identify as White/Caucasian, ethnic diversity is highest in the UK, with 20% of founder respondents self-identifying with a minority ethnic group.
While it has a more diverse tech scene than other European countries, Britain’s tech sector is still in the middle of a diversity dilemma when it comes to gender and ethnicity, without much change over the years. And with Brexit raising question marks about the free movement of people within the EU, only time will tell if workplace diversity grows, remains stagnant or gets worse.
The UK’s changing tech talent pool
While some tech workers seem to be falling out of love with the UK tech scene, particularly Americans, and diversity is still a problem, it’s not all as bleak as it might appear. Plenty are still excited to bring their talents to the area, even with impending Brexit.
From London to Manchester to Bristol and beyond, British tech innovation (and venture capital funding) reaches every corner of the UK. And the country has now created the third-most tech unicorns, behind the US and China, which is impressive given that they’re both about 40 times bigger than the UK in terms of land mass.
“Overall searches for UK tech jobs may have dipped,” says Richards, “but there is still much to shout about the sector. Britain remains a hotbed for tech innovation, with global investment still pouring in, and the country remains a world leader for creating tech unicorns and attracting a high-skilled global workforce.”