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IT workers in Australia are not too far past the pandemic to remember the upward surge in salaries it resulted in. As companies ramped projects back up after shelving them during 2020, suddenly the competition for tech skills and talent was back on in earnest, and salaries spiked.

That grab for talent tapered off through 2023 as economic headwinds caused businesses to recalibrate, with some tech job losses as businesses restructured. However, there were still plenty of lucrative opportunities for tech workers, as pointed out by recruiter Hays in 2023.

While some indicators show tech salaries are stalling in 2024, this is in the context of a decade of steady growth, says Nicole Gorton, director at recruiter Robert Half. Gorton predicts salaries will hold up due to a continued tech skills shortage, especially in areas of high demand.

Salary reports point to less tech worker pay packet growth

Reports in early 2024 have suggested Australian tech worker salaries are flatlining or falling.

Software firm Employment Hero’s SME Index for February 2024 pegged a decline in the median hourly rate for tech workers in 1,500 Australian SMEs from $57.20 to $57.12 over the last year. This made tech the only sector in the country where worker pay went backward and contrasted with data for other Australian workers, which saw hourly rates rise by 6%, the firm said.

Data from Australian jobs website Seek suggests advertised salaries in information and communication technology grew just 1.9% in the 12 months to January 31. Job advertisements on the platform were down 26.9% year-on-year, according to data published for March.

This recent data may not contain the full picture; for instance, there are a lot of talented tech workers who sit outside the sample of SME users of Employment Hero’s payroll and HR platform. Also, about two thirds of all advertised open positions on Seek do not contain salary information.

Think & Grow’s Australian Tech Salary Guide is a good reminder of the difference in salary growth between different roles. Last year, its report found that, while team leaders had seen only 1.4% salary growth from 2022 to 2023, software engineers grew by a median of 18.5%.

Robert Half says salary data needs to be seen in context

Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half.
Nicole Gorton, Director at Robert Half.

Nicole Gorton, director at recruiter Robert Half, said Australian tech workers had seen a decade of steady salary increases, followed by an upward spike following the pandemic. Though this was followed by restructuring after “zealous aggressive hiring,” she said it is a normalisation.

“I would say not to look at the recent three years as normal. They were not. While activity has dropped off, the question is, dropped off from what? Supply and demand now is relatively healthy. Companies are hiring to replace, and sometimes hiring to add,” she said.

Robert Half’s 2024 Australia Salary Guide stated IT and technology workers could expect 4.5% salary growth this year, compared with 4.2% expected growth overall. Salaries are also still relatively healthy in comparison to where they were pre-pandemic, Gorton said.

SEE: 4 things Australian IT leaders can do to build the future tech team they want.

Employment Hero also pointed out the hourly rate for ICT workers is the highest of any sector, while Think & Grow found few jobs paid under $100,000. This puts tech salaries above the average weekly salary for full-time workers, which was $1,888.80 in November 2023.

“Though the fever pitch of inflated salaries is subsiding and rapid growth may be moderating, salaries are expected to remain healthy in my opinion, especially in areas of demand like data, cyber security, systems engineering and business transformation,” Gorton said.

The IT hiring market in 2024 contains opportunity for workers

Tech workers are now in a market where companies are “cautiously positive,” Gorton said, though there remains a “level of caution in the hiring economy.” While companies “are not all guns blazing,” they will hire depending on projects, especially in areas of high demand.

Demand stretches from junior to senior level roles and can depend on industry sectors. Robert Half’s report found in-demand roles were for developers, business analysts, cyber security specialists, data engineers, BI and data analysts, systems engineers and cloud engineers.

Gorton said businesses were looking to ICT workers to address the critical challenges faced by business today in a digital world, like leveraging data, securing systems, building robust infrastructure and bridging the gap between business needs and technology solutions.

Employers positioning themselves for artificial intelligence

Employers are also looking at how their current tech workforce positions them for adapting to an AI environment. “Companies are hiring people with those (AI) skill sets to make sure that they are staying at the top of their game and being competitive in their industry,” Gorton said.

In some ways, companies are trying to navigate the “unknown,” Gorton said.

This is causing them to be more strategic about hiring, so they are prepared and “don’t miss the boat or get caught up in a hiring frenzy. They are still trying to work out how to maintain cost structure but add weight to technology so it supports growth of business,” she added.

Australian salaries still attractive for APAC tech workers

Exceptional salary growth may have levelled off, but tech work in Australia is still desirable. And work exists; the Towards a National Jobs and Skills Roadmap report suggested this was still the case for 70% of ICT occupations, leaving plenty of opportunity for international workers.

The Australian Government is doing more to tap global tech talent. For example, its Migration Strategy includes the introduction of a Specialist Skills Pathway for highly skilled workers, in addition to new four-year Skills in Demand visas for workers in areas of skills shortage.

Gorton acknowledged existing visas can present a barrier. However, she said Australia can present an attractive proposition for APAC tech workers, as long as salaries are in line with things such as inflation rates and the cost of living, which can even vary between Australian states.

“Australia is a land of technological expansion and growth,” Gorton said. “Private equity firms are investing hard and fast in this space in Australia, and I think with our borders open it does allow people to land and expand their skill sets across geographies,” she said.

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