IT boom really happened: ABS report

Statistics confirm it: the IT&T industry in Australia hit boom levels in the past three years. But while income and companies increased, the overall number of jobs fell, according to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey. The Australian IT&T industry's total income in 1998-99 was $59 billion, an increase of 21 per cent over 1995-96. The telecommunications sector produced the biggest growth (40 per cent) followed by computer services (32 per cent), then wholesale trade (12 per cent).

The ABS figures showed Australia's technology sector grew 36 per cent with the number of IT and telco businesses jumping to 18,469 at the end of the 1998-99 fiscal year.

Based on 4900 business nationally, the survey showed a growth in services and a decline in production as the industry moved to software and consulting and away from hardware. About 4000 companies in the survey were in the small to medium sector, the ABS said.

While computer services employment increased 37 per cent the total number employed in IT&T fell 4 per cent to 195,580 with the drop, according to Paul Taylor, ABS IT survey assistant director, due to an 18 per cent decline in telecommunications services employment. Telstra's substantial downsizing in the three-year period brought the employment numbers down, but it had not affected the sector's income, Taylor said.

The increase in business numbers while employment fell was partly due to the increase in small consultancies, he said.

Most specialists were in computer consultancy services (79 per cent), followed by eight per cent in computer wholesaling and five per cent in telecommunications services.

The average salary was $50,300. Salaries were highest in business machines and electrical and electronic equipment wholesaling, at an average $59,200. The telecommunications, broadcasting and transceiving equipment manufacturing industry followed at $56,900, with the information storage and retrieval sector next at $34,100.

As this is a preliminary report, a further breakdown of the salaries from ABS, is due in September.

Taylor said the domestic production and imports of IT&T and domestic production and computer services had gone up in the three years, but the actual manufacture of the IT&T products had declined.

The ABS plans to increase the frequency of the survey to every two years.

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