Full time IT jobs remain strong: 2009 ACS survey

Age discrimination taskforce established

A reduction in the unemployment percentage among IT workers indicates the global financial slowdown has had little impact to date on the proportion of full time professionals, according the 2009 Australian Computer Society ICT employment survey.

The ACS members survey indicates 24.7 per cent of respondents have experienced some form of unemployment at some stage in the last five years, which is down from 29 per cent of respondents two years ago.

Moreover, 65 per cent of people in full time employment are working more than a 40 hour week – the same percentage as in 2007.

In comparison to the 2007 boom period, there has been a reduction in full-time, and only a slight increase in part-time, work reported in 2009, suggesting that employment levels have remained steady.

ACS chairman, Kumar Parakala, said the results demonstrate a “subtle tightening” of the labour force market despite the global financial crisis, providing a positive outlook for ICT professionals and graduates.

“The number of full time workers in the industry has remained steady despite an overall decline in employment within the general population,” he said. “The challenge facing Australia is to identify and act on the reality that IT skill sets are going to be in insatiable demand for the foreseeable future.”

According to the ACS, the IT industry’s employment stability can be attributed to its contribution to Australian business as a productivity driver.

“Professional development is the key to maintaining continuity in our workforce and even though employees may not feel compelled to spend money on upgrading skills in this climate, we encourage ICT professionals to continue to retrain and update their skills,” Parakala said.

In response to the result of the highest level of age discrimination to date (more than 20% experiencing age discrimination), Parakala also announced the development of an age discrimination taskforce at the ACS.

Unemployment figures reveal a more even spread across all age groups in comparison to 2007.

In 2007, there were two distinct age peaks for unemployment - those aged under 30, especially under 25, and those aged from 41 to 50 years.

The higher level of unemployment for the over 60 age group is likely to be derived from a combination of age discrimination and either real or imagined concerns about the currency of those employees ICT skills, according to the ACS.

“The development of an ACS age discrimination taskforce will aim to aid older workers to retain for positions within the industry,” Parakala said. “Ageism is a growing reality in Australia, but so is an increasing awareness that workers older than 45 represent a skill resource and knowledge that we cannot afford to waste.”

Other findings in the 2009 ACS Employment Survey include:

  • 57 per cent of respondents have worked more than ten years in the ICT industry in Australia, compared to 62 per cent of the respondents to the 2007 Survey. This indicates a tightening of the labour force.
  • 80 per cent of respondents say they have undertaken some form of training over the last year, with the main types of training being ICT related, followed by personal development and business related training, with 11 per cent having undertaken training outside ICT.
  • Nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they need to undertake training/retraining every one to three years to keep their skills current.
  • Respondents say the Internet remains the best source of new ICT positions.
  • Of those respondents experiencing unemployment in the last five years, the 2009 Survey showed very little variation by gender – compared to previous surveys where women reported higher levels of unemployment than men.
  • Tasmania and the Northern Territory are the “safest” places to retain an ICT job. NSW is the most volatile location, by a large margin, compared to the other, larger states.
  • Female ICT professional respondent employment is strongly clustered across sectors and 34 per cent of female respondents felt they had been discriminated against on the basis of gender.
  • More than 12 per cent of respondents reported racial or ethnic discrimination, an increase from 9.6 per cent in 2007, which may reflect more disquiet since the advent of the economic downturn.
  • ICT employers in Australia are happy for their employees to make decisions on what training they require, with around 60 per cent of employers sharing in the decision making process, and less than 40 per cent leaving it up to the employee. Around 70 per cent of employees of the respondents provided funding support for training.

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