Claims that Indian programmers are taking British workers' jobs came under fire this week from the UK arm of Indian software giant Mastek.
The company denied claims made by the UK-based Professional Contractors Group (PCG) that the government's recently introduced fast-track work permit system is allowing companies to get staff on the cheap.
Mastek UK managing director Mike Cast described the PCG's claims as "disingenuous".
"The PCG is not comparing like-for-like," he said. "The majority of Indian workers work for reputable companies doing development work and project assignments for UK organisations. Additionally, the jobs they undertake are often jobs that British workers don't want to do."
He maintained that people in the UK want to be as senior as possible as quickly as possible, and the notion of being a programmer is not an appealing one to many.
Cast pointed out that most UK IT workers want to be consultants and team leaders, and not programmers, as many of the Indian workers are. He argued that, in reality, a flexible IT workforce in the UK is in short supply.
The UK produces around 10,000 'IT-type' graduates every year, compared to 200,000 in India, Cast said.
He emphasised that there is currently a shortage of 220,000 IT staff, a figure that is likely to rise to 330,000 next year. Cast described overseas workers as "critical" to the UK IT landscape.
PCG spokeswoman Suzie Hughes said last week that the Group wanted to see government intervention to ease the situation.
"We would accept a government scheme to bring and retain people to meet a genuine skills shortage, but some companies are using immigration rules as a skills replacement," she explained.
Dismissing the claim, Cast argued: "The system is actually designed to help British industry by reducing costs, increasing flexibility and speeding up time-to-market, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the 185 companies in the Fortune 500 which outsource to India.
"While there may be some cases where the fast track visa system might be abused it would be a huge mistake to generalise the problem, as Indian IT workers provide an extremely valuable solution for under-resourced companies in the UK."
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