IT unemployment outstrips national average

IT unemployment outstrips national average

Australia's IT unemployment rate is 77 percent higher than the national jobless average but incredibly, the rate is an improvement on the year before, according to the Australian Computer Society's (ACS) 2003 ICT Employment Survey.

The survey, which canvassed 625 IT professionals, found the national average is now 5.7 percent (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

However, it is an improvement on 2002 figures when the rate was 100 percent higher than the national average of six per cent.

According to IDC User Programs and InTep manager Peter Hind, who conducted the research, local IT job seekers are part of a global downturn that certainly doesn't favour lavish technology spending.

Hind said an indicator is the number of NASDAQ-listed IT companies which has dropped from 5000 in 2001 to 1000 in less than two years. Sectors feeling the brunt of IT unemployment were government, consulting and financial services, according to the survey.

"The financial services sector has had a huge focus on cost reductions and efficiency and we've seen this with CBA's 10 percent downsizing at the end of 2003 and also banks like Westpac cutting a lot of IT staff," he said.

"Also, we're seeing a move away from massive outsourcing deals [typical] in the late 90s and more towards insourcing. And there's not the demand there was for IT workers in the consulting industry like there was in the boom."

Over the last five years, the median average time for those under-employed (working fewer hours than they would like to) or unemployed was eight months, the survey found. Unemployment came as a new experience to 53 percent of respondents in 2003 compared to 57 percent in 2002.

Hind said one "noticeable" change between the 2002 and 2003 survey was the steep drop in the number of female ACS members who were unemployed. While last year 12.3 percent of women members were out of work, the number dropped to 6.3 percent in the latest survey.

"Maybe women are more adaptable or in this industry have to try harder, and so are more successful at securing employment," he said.

The squeeze is happening at both ends of the age spectrum; IT unemployment has increased for those in the 46 to 50 age group and for those aged over 56, and people under the age of 25 are struggling to break into the IT industry, registering greater than average unemployment last year, the survey showed. While 12 months ago 7.4 percent of survey respondents aged under 25 said they were unemployed it has now risen to 12.1 percent.

Hind said based on anecdotal feedback from ACS' tertiary members, IT graduates are finding it extremely hard to break into the IT industry. "Gone are the halcyon days where graduates thought the dotcom boom was full of opportunities for them," he said.

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