The latest Information Industries Update has emphasised the fact that Australian information industries employment actually contracted during the latter half of the 1990s, despite experiencing strong growth in the first half of that decade. While information and communication technology (ICT) businesses generated up to 77,000 new jobs in Australia between 1992-1993 and 1995-96, they actually lost almost 2500 jobs between 1995-96 and 1998-99, due to contraction in the ICT manufacturing sector.
This is despite the fact that during the same period the Australian market for ICT goods and services grew strongly to reach $A65 billion in 1998-99 and was expected to reach $A75 billion in 2000. Unfortunately, an increasing proportion of the Australian market is being supplied from overseas.
The 100-page report was prepared by Professor John Houghton of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES) at Victoria University and was sponsored by the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
The data contained in the update not only highlighted a net loss of jobs, but also a loss of scale, with a reduction in the number of medium to large companies. In 1998-99, 96 per cent of all ICT businesses operating in Australia employed fewer than 20 people while less than one per cent employed more than 100 people.
Other OECD countries also experienced significant job losses in the telecommunications industry during the early to mid 1990s, but in places like the US and UK, jobs have started to grow again, whereas we are yet to see any major growth here.