IT managers fretting over job security because of the inflated predictions of boom and bust by analysts and recruiters can take heart in data that reveals the number of IT managers in Australia has remained stable if not static for at least three years.
According to annualised Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force data obtained by Computerworld, the number of IT managers rose by about 1 percent (to 29,900) in 2003, from 2 percent in 2002 (29,600), an unprecedented 63 percent jump in 2001 (to 29,150 from 17,900).
The jump followed on from a respectable 18 percent rise in 2000, preceded by a two years of drops in 1999 (-2 percent) and 1998 (-7 percent).
The figures show that while there has been near flat job growth for IT managers over the last two years, the reality of the employment situation is some considerable distance from a widely held perception that a sustained IT employment crash followed in line with the collapse of the NASDAQ in April 2000.
Depending on which way the figures are interpreted, either the dotcom wreck failed to result in job losses for IT managers, or the job losses were almost two years early.
The ABS numbers are significant for two reasons. Firstly, unlike recruitment agencies and research firms, Australian businesses and government are legally compelled to provide the ABS with data that's as accurate as possible – thereby reducing the statistical spectre of over- or under-reporting by respondents.
Secondly, a standardised methodology has been applied by ABS across a range of collection and extrapolative criteria for the data it provides – or put more simply, the data the ABS issues must meet quality assurance standards fit for the likes of the Reserve Bank.
While the ABS has strongly cautioned against drawing conclusions based on its quarterly estimates, one thing that can be safely said is that substantial seasonal volatility appears to exist far more for IT managers than for ICT job movements.
For IT managers at least, numbers employed rise consistently from August until May before what appears to a near-ritual seasonal dip – ominously in line with the end of financial year. As such, IT managers' jobs seem to decline roughly around the same time as budgets annually run down as the weather cools.
What effect the actual number of IT managers has on remuneration remains open to interpretation. While unable to comment on the IT specifics of the ABS data, Gartner's research director for sourcing, Jim Longwood, said IT professionals were unlikely to see a general lift in the medium turn as subdued demand, coupled with work being sent offshore combined to keep a lid on salaries.
"Some senior executives at the big consultancies have taken pay cuts of around 20 per cent," Longwood said, adding that IT skills continued to become more commoditised as nations with emerging IT development markets started to come online.
Some salary salvation may come from the Asia-Pacific region as recovering demand for IT specialists fuels rising salaries, according to the Hong Kong-based president of Information Systems Security Association, Chester Soong.
Soong told Computerworld the Asia-Pacific region was recovering with organizations now spending on IT after a three-year hiatus.
"Security professionals and managers are typically paid 20 to 30 percent higher than [than mainstream IT employees]. We can now say that it is looking better," Soong said.