IT recruiters seem split on industry prospects for 2001, but it should be better than last year.
Some believe the IT salary gap between New Zealand and Australia will widen further and further fuel a brain drain.
Others, however, say a weakening Australian economy coupled with a strengthening local economy and overseas IT firms moving here should stop our pay rates lagging further behind.
But either way, most agree 2001 should be better than 2000, during which the Nasdaq sagged and New Zealand business confidence stumbled.
Recruitment consultant Lachlan Sloan of Protocol Personnel says Australian payrates tend to be about 10% better than New Zealand rates in dollar terms. Taking exchange rates into account, that means Australian wages are about a quarter to a third higher. And for some skills, such as Oracle database expertise, the rates are almost double, he says.
Sydney-based Hewitt Associates say a continuing Australian boom will see further inflation-busting pay rates of 4.4% to 6.8% this year, after 4.1% to 5.6% last year. In the IT sector, a spokeman expected wage rises to vary but typically exceed 5%.
However, in New Zealand, both Sloan and Candle IT & T Recruitment's Auckland chief, Christine Fitchew, expect many wage rates to struggle to match the rate of inflation, though again rates will vary.
Sloan says 2000 seemed a year of "doom and gloom" in the IT sector, particularly once the hype of Y2k had gone. The Employment Relations Act and its "introduction/scare" made the contracting market slower and the Nasdaq collapse left IT firms "feeling vulnerable".
Salaries were rising year-on-year, but "post-Y2k has seen a lot of salaries level out", he says.
Experience still affected salaries, along with the skills of job applicants.
"Developers are still in high demand with key skills including Oracle, Java, Delphi, C++, VB, ASP, SQKL and DBAs. Within engineering, it would appear that employers are looking for more and more skills to fill the same position. Cisco skills are in demand due to the continued growth of the internet as is Citrix due to the increase of application service providers.
"Microsoft still has a strong hold on the networking environment so qualifications like MCSE [with experience] are still in demand. The strongest skill demand within the Microsoft arena would appear to be MS Exchange," says Sloan.
Protocol says workers are heading overseas, which was helping wages here, and those with skills in shortest supply and "at the top end" should see increases.
Sloan says the IT market feels 2001 will be prosperous and firms are entering the year positively.
"We would expect 2001 to be the year that a lot of companies renew their committment to investing in their IT systems and believe that this will help the local IT job market to become more buoyant and positive," Sloan says.
Candle's Fitchew agrees local wages have "no reason to go up except for those with leading edge skills".
She expects the Australia-New Zealand pay gap may continue to grow as New Zealand firms head across the Tasman.
Barry O"Brien of Enterprise says last year was "bad" with the dot.com shake-out causing redundancies, but Java and C++ skills remained in short supply with "healthy pay rises for those moving from job-to-job".
Much of the industry no longer enjoyed cost of living increases, except for large firms and those with rare or current skills.
There was "no pressure" on wages.
However, O'Brien doubts a move to Sydney always pays. Those with "general" IT skills may have an edge but "rare and leading edge skills" earn more here.
New Zealand is also becoming an offshore development site for US and UK firms, which will keep local wages high, and maintain pressure on those with rare skills. This coupled with an improving domestic ecomy and a weakening Australian one causes O'Brien to doubt a widening trans-Tasman pay gap.
"There will probably be a reduction in the ecom/dot.com bubble. More of these skills will be available but they never have been in abundance. The market won't be as superheated as before," he says.
Some of the pay rate averages Protocol Personnel saw in 2000:
- Desktop support, entry level range from $30-35K
- Customer services in IT, from $30-35K
- Product managers, $55-65K
- Senior engineers with 5 years + experience and MCSE etc, $70-80K
- Web developers, entry level, $35K
- Technical services managers, $85K
- Senior project managers, $110K
- IT managers, $85K
- DBA's, $70K (special demand for Oracle DBA's)
- Account managers - solution sales, $100K circa
- Webmaster, $70-80K depending on experience
- Systems administrators, $55K
- Network engineers, $60-65K
- Technical analysts, $35-40K
- Analyst programmers >3yrs depends on experience, $45-60K +
- Analyst programmers <3yrs, $30-45K
- Business analysts, $60K
- Marketing support representatives, $35-40K
- Product administrators, $35-45K
- Telephone account managers, $40-45K
- Customer services managers, $55-65K
- Business development managers, $100K +
- LAN administrators, $55-60K
- Pre-sales engineers with vendor, $90-100K
- Sales managers IT, $150K circa
- IT technical consultants, $100K circa
- Network architects or LAN/WAN design, $120K
- E-Commerce architects, $95K +
- Sales & merchandising representatives, $50K+
- Delphi developers, >$35K depending on experience
- Test analysts, $35-45K
- QA, $50-60K