Demand climbs quicker than pay rates: survey

ICT professionals are now seeing strong demand for their skills, contractors are being passed over in favour of full-time staff and positions in general management and sales and marketing are still higher paid than those in IT, according to a survey released today.

The 2004 Australian Computer Society (ACS) Remuneration Survey found that in general, ICT pay rates had grown 3.4 percent in 2003-04, up from the record low of 3.1 percent last year.

Fewer than a third of ICT contractors increased their rates during that period, charging on average between $60 to $120 per hour depending on the nature of work done.

ACS president Edward Mandla said the survey findings fuelled speculation that demand for qualified ICT professionals had turned the corner after three difficult years.

"While static or declining increases have been recorded every year since 2000, this is the first trend upward since 1998 and represents hope of a recovery for ICT professionals who have been hit hard by the downturn," Mandla said.

The survey found 43 percent of all ICT professionals interviewed experienced strong or much stronger demand for their skills, up from 28.4 percent in 2003. Only 11.8 percent of respondents said they have experienced less demand, down from 23.6 percent from last year.

General IT salaries were found to increase above the consumer price index (CPI), but fall well below the average weekly earnings increase of 4.9 percent recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Public sector staff received a 3.1 percent increase, private sector a 3.4 percent rise and those in the education sector gained 3.6 percent.

The figures are still behind the 4 to 5 percent increases paid to IT professionals in other engineering, scientific and technical disciplines; however, life for contractors is about to get much better due to an increased demand for their services.

According to Mandla, the fact there are more sales opportunities in the ICT industry opening up and project sizes are much larger demand for contractors is up, even though they have had to alter pay rates to stay competitive.

"One of the outcomes we saw last year was that employers were favouring full-time professional staff over hiring independent consultants, which raised the level of uncertainty for those working as contractors," Mandla said.

"However, the increased new project activity we are seeing does bode well for independent professionals."

The survey also found programmers with skills in Cobol and TCP/IP are in high demand and are attracting a higher salary package than those working in Java, Unix or SQL.

The ACS Remuneration Survey is carried out by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia, attracting a response from 1551 ACS members.

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