A new report by market research firm IDC predicts that North America will lose its standing as the world's leading producer of professional software developers to the Asia Pacific region by 2005.
"The IDC 2002 Worldwide Professional Developer Model" study surveyed the number of professional developers in 191 countries and six geographic areas. The study defined a professional developer as a "paid professional who uses application development tools to build applications." Developers also had to be employed to be counted in the study.
With 1.7 million software developers, the Asia Pacific region is currently the number two producer of development talent, surpassing Western Europe's 1.6 million developers, but well behind North America's 2.6 million professional developers in 2001, according to the IDC study.
However, with strong growth in the number of professional developers projected over the next two years in countries such as China and India as compared with North America, the Asia Pacific region is on course to take over the number one spot, IDC said.
Eastern Europe (including Russia), the Middle East and Africa are also predicted to experience a rapid growth in the number of developers in the coming years, according to IDC.
IDC researchers did not rely on census or historical data in calculating the number of developers in each country. Instead, a statistical model was developed that derived the number of developers from several variables such as population forecasts, figures on software spending and the level of higher education in the general population.
The number of software developers was predicted to grow the most rapidly in countries such as China where the number of college-educated adults and professional developers was low, relative to the overall population, IDC said.
In countries such as the US and Canada, where the number of college-educated adults and professional developers is high relative to the total population, growth was predicted to be lower.
Not surprisingly, the sharp economic downturn in North America has also weakened the region's status as the number one producer of software developers, resulting in massive layoffs of IT workers in the US and elsewhere.
The number of developers in North America actually shrank by half a per cent between 2000 and 2001. By comparison, the number of developers in the Asia Pacific region grew by more than six per cent during the same period.
Overall, the study found that the number of professional developers worldwide is growing. The world's population of developers will reach 13.3 million by 2006, from just 7.8 million in 2001.
That population is concentrated in just ten countries, with the US, China, India, Russia, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, the UK and Italy accounting for just over 64 per cent of the world's professional developers.
On a country by country basis, the US still holds the lion's share of professional developers, with almost 30 per cent of the world's total. By comparison, the country with the second largest share of professional developers, Japan, has just under six per cent of the total.
The study also compiled data on the primary development languages used in each surveyed geographical area, and addressed trends in the growth of those languages.
C and C++ continue to be the most commonly used development languages, with Java overtaking Visual Basic as the second most commonly used language worldwide, IDC said.