Monday, October 02, 2006

IT, globalisation and immigration

Qantas have announced they'll be sending 300 jobs offshore to India. Their rational is about the limited availability of skilled workers but I'm not at all convinced.

The federal Department of Work and Employment closely tracks* the IT labour market - it is an incredibly volatile market because the industry is so dynamic and globalised - and as at September 2006 reports that though demand has increased this year, it is still considerably lower than in 2000 reflecting changes in the industry as well as the impact of various measures developed to improve the skill base. Also, although forecasts predict stronger growth in demand for IT employment, changes to the skilled migration scheme and a renewed focus on training for skill shortages may be sufficient to fill any gap.

As an aside, some work I did a while ago showed that the NSW training system is incredibly attuned to changes in the IT industry with enrolments closely tracking vacancy trends with very little lag time.

Qantas is relocating these jobs to save on wage costs - exploiting the low wage economy of India compared with the high wages paid in Australia. This is the price of global labour markets, we need to accept it and plan accordingly.

*DEWR tracks skilled vacancies and reports on trends. It's important not to conflate the existence of persistent vacancies with skill shortages. Skilled workers may choose to not apply for work because they can get more money elsewhere or because they don't like the work. Nursing is an example of an industry where there is a labour, not a skill shortage. There are plenty of trained nurses, more than enough to fill reported vacancies, however they choose alternative employment for numerous reasons (see the report Stop Telling Us To Cope on this page).

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