The tech sector is the hot spot in the employment market with both jobs growth and salaries outstripping the rest of the economy.
Job growth in the sector is running at 2 per cent a year while in the wider economy job growth is at 1.4 per cent, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS), a professional association for the tech sector.
ACS communications manager Thomas Shanahan says “75 per cent of the most in-demand jobs are in the tech sector. Around 40 per cent of the jobs paying over $150,000 are in the tech sector and it continues to rise”.
Overall, tech sector jobs tend to be better paid than for the average across the economy, Mr Shanahan says.
Big bucks for tech workers
So lucrative is the information, communications and technology (ICT) sector that software developers and coders with some basic experience can “enter the market with salaries of between $95,000 and $110,000”, says Monica Wulff, CEO of researcher Startup Muster.
Bridget Loudon, CEO and co-founder of Expert360.com, a company connecting freelancers with employers, says “we find many tech professionals don’t want permanent work”.
“They prefer the variety they find in contracting because they are so much in demand. The average contract ranges between two weeks and six months and they can command very high salaries.”
An IT programming project director can earn as much as $1500 to $1700 a day, Ms Loudon says.
Australia’s tech sector employs around 451,000 people. Ms Loudon says about 20 per cent of those are freelancers and “that’s expected to grow to 40 per cent in 2025”.
Women lacking in the tech sector
Women are missing out on the opportunities being created in tech, with the above graphic showing women holding as little as 7 per cent of jobs in technical support and 8 per cent in IT management.
In web design, the figure jumps to 35 per cent, in graphic design, 38 per cent and 45 per cent in user interface design.
Overall “the position of women has improved a little bit, but it’s still male-dominated with women making up less than 20 per cent of the workforce”, Ms Loudon says.
One sector where the representation of women is growing is in entrepreneurial startups.
“Our research shows that 19 per cent of startups in 2013 were founded by women and by 2014 it was 24 per cent,” she says.
Startups are where the action is
The ballooning growth of IT is creating huge opportunities in startups.
“We are in a once-in-a-lifetime age of disruption. Fifteen years ago it cost $500,000 to get a startup off the ground,” says Ms Loudon. “Now it’s $5000.”
Smartphones, the connected world, cloud storage and dramatic declines in costs have created the difference, she says.
All this has helped create “a massive cultural shift” that makes startups increasingly attractive, Ms Loudon says.
There is a shortage of tech graduates in Australia with women and girls in particular shying away gaining tech skills in secondary and tertiary education.
“Australia needs more graduates to architect the internet. We are increasingly having to source people from the US,” Ms Loudon says.
Dr Suelette Dreyfus, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Computing and Information Systems, says despite this, Australia is strong in the security technology area.
“Australia’s isolation has helped develop a resourceful mindset. People try things and hypothesise rather than having to go through three corporate divisions in a major company,” Dr Dreyfus says.
The ICT sector is increasingly important to the national economy. Research from Deloitte Access Economics shows the digital economy was worth $79 billion, or 5.1 per cent of GDP, in 2014. That puts it ahead of sectors like retail, transport, agriculture and utilities.