ICT unemployed rate outpaces national average

Unemployment in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector is almost twice the national average, according to a new study by the Australian Computer Society.

Statistics from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) this week back up the study but also show vacancies have fallen sharply in the past two months.

The society's 2002 ICT Australian Employment Survey, which is based on member research conducted late last year, show unemployment among ACS members is 11.9 per cent, almost double the national average of 6.1 per cent.

More than half (52.3 per cent) of unemployed IT professionals list their ICT skills sets as being in programming, business analysis and project management.

Unemployment increases significantly among older and more experienced professionals, reaching nearly 13 per cent for those between 36 to 40 and 51 to 55 years old, although the rate fell for professionals between 41 and 50.

Some 43.7 per cent of unemployed respondents come from the traditionally more stable industry sectors of banking and finance, consulting and the public sector. Unemployment is higher among women at 12.3 per cent.

ACS national president, Richard Hogg, said the survey findings highlighted the need for urgent action by all stakeholders to work together to help grow the ICT sector and create employment opportunities for ICT professionals.

Hogg said politicians and Prime Minister John Howard have pointed to ICT as being the future, "but it will be a bleak future indeed if we don't take steps to revitalise this key industry sector".

"The ACS will do whatever it can to assist members in improving their employment situation, and we are talking with industry bodies as well as governments at all levels on broader initiatives designed to stimulate growth," he said.

Meanwhile, figures from the DEWR's ICT Vacancy Index, which rose by 27.5 per cent over the four weeks to mid February 2003, shows that vacancies for ICT jobs have fallen sharply -- with around 7100 ICT positions advertised in the four weeks to mid February 2003 -- and that ICT skills shortages have eased considerably.

"Although the ICT market remains subdued in Australia and globally, there has been continuing growth in employment for ICT workers, a rise of 14,400 or 7.5 per cent in employment of ICT professionals over the year to November 2002," said the Tony Abbott, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

DEWR's National Skill Shortage List for 2003 shows that skills for SAP, Java security and e-commerce, PeopleSoft and CISSP are in demand.

There is also "recruitment difficulty" nationally for firewall or Internet security skills, and data warehousing skills.

Denis Hart, team leader for occupational and skills analysis section at DEWR, said skills shortages exist when employers are unable to fill or have considerable difficulty in filling vacancies for an occupation.

"The big question for IT professionals is -- is there going to be an upward trend in IT demand? We think the growth in the past few weeks is a rebound of the seasonal lows of December and January. I think it will take another few months until we see if the trend is upward in vacancies for IT professionals," he said.

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