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Vacancies prompt visa shift

MINISTER for Information Tech-nology and the Arts Richard Alston claims there are 32,000 IT jobs vacant in Australia.

While this news may be a relief to many who are hoping for a slow down in the rate at which online competitors move into their market, it is also an ominous indication of the level of resource currently used to create online business.

Any industry creating these levels of demand for labour is growing rapidly and, if you have not already made plans, you may miss the opportunity completely.

The shortage of technology workers mirrors a worldwide problem that is causing many governments to reflect on immigration restrictions for high tech workers.

In the US, Senator John Cain fears the American problem of 340,000 vacant IT jobs will become more acute and has pushed non-immigration visa restrictions for IT professionals from 65,000 to 115,000 a year till the year 2002.

This year’s restriction was reached in June.

Senator Alston wants to follow suit. He said he would push for a relaxation of immigration restrictions for the movement of IT professionals to Australia and is hoping the Australian lifestyle will act as a drawcard.

Greater financial inducements for IT workers has seen the movement of considerable numbers of Australian IT professionals and it is now estimated there are some 5,000 Australians working in Silicon Valley.

Educational institutions are finding it difficult to keep up with the demanding electronic labour market, there being only 62,000 PhD computer science graduates worldwide last year.

This could cause a considerable rise in the already inflated salaries of IT producing professionals Salaries in the US have risen 6.4 per cent annually since 1989.

A recently released US report detailed the need for highly educated IT professionals who have at least a college degree.

Meanwhile, e-commerce professionals and Internet workers remain a highly unquantifiable group, with salaries varying.

It is estimated web developers earn on average US$50,000 while e-commerce consumer behaviour consultants earn an average of more than US$100,000.

The US Government report also comments on the digital labour market imbalances.

“In addition to paying the higher wages and salaries, companies also have been increasingly willing to consider non-salary requests such as alternative work schedules, telecommuting, child and elder care assistance and pets in the workplace to attract and retain the workers they need,” the report says.

“Organisations, both public and private continue to experience difficulty in recruiting and retaining employees with specialised IT skills.”

This report and more information on the digital labour market economy can be found at http://www.ecommerce.gov/ede/

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l Raphe Patmore is CEO of Inter-net consultancy Biz E Planet.

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