IT Skills Shortage Growing in ASEAN Countries

SINGAPORE (06/14/2000) - Around 20 percent of full-time IT jobs in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member countries cannot be filled because of a lack of skilled staff, and this proportion will grow to 25 percent within a few years, according to Puni Rajah, vice president of consulting research at International Data Corp. (IDC).

"The second wave of e-business adoption here will require heavy-duty back office enhancements and cause even greater demand for IT professionals," she said at a presentation here Wednesday.

A survey of Asia-Pacific end users showed that about 75 percent of companies had experienced delays in implementing new technology directly because of skills shortages, with many of those delays stretching beyond one month, according to Rajah.

"These results show that the skills shortage here is real and not hypothetical," she said.

Delays and deferred projects will lead to a lack of competitiveness for companies, push up costs because of higher wage expectations among skilled IT personnel, and increase staff turnover, leading to overall lower productivity, Rajah said.

The skills shortage in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) is causing a boom in IT training revenues, which are expected to rise from US$981 million in 1999 to $2.58 billion in 2004, according to IDC figures. This represents year-on-year revenue growth of 21 percent for this sector.

The skills shortage worldwide is causing additional headaches for the Asian region, but increased opportunities for individuals, as developed countries such as the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Germany seek outside IT staff from this region.

"Getting certified (with a relevant IT skill) is the fastest way to get a green card (resident permit) for the U.S.," said Rajah.

Malaysia is emerging as a strong IT base with its generally high level of education, available English-language skills and low labor costs. Several countries have elected to site call centers there, she said.

India, in particular, with its strong emphasis on education, is preparing "an almost limitless pool of IT talent," she said.

But as competition for scarce global IT skills gets stronger, countries looking to import IT staff from overseas will have to market themselves as attractive career destinations, according to Rajah.

Recently, Germany announced it planned to allow 20,000 overseas IT professionals to come to the country to fill IT jobs, of whom half would come from India. But only 300 Indian IT professionals applied for the scheme, underlining Germany's image problem in India, Rajah said.

"Indian IT professionals went to Germany before and some were not well treated," she said. "These kinds of stories go around."

IDC is owned by International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service.

IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-508-872-8200, or via the Web at http://www.idc.com/.

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