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Digital nomads weigh down hiring activity in SA’s IT sector

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Although IT continues to be the top-performing employment sector in South Africa, hiring activity in this area has declined by 3% in the last three months.

This is according to jobs portal CareerJunction’s Employment Insights report for April.

The report is based on data gathered from around 5 000 of the country’s top recruiters (both agencies and employers) that advertise their positions to millions of registered jobseekers.

CareerJunction attributes the dip in hiring activity in the local IT sector to increased emigration as travel restrictions are relaxed, as well as the growing trend of “digital nomads” in the IT space.

Digital nomads are people who conduct their life in a nomadic manner, while engaging in remote work using digital telecommunications technology.

In its previous report, the company said SA’s tech sector was steadily recovering from the slowdown in recruitment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It said hiring activity across job categories showed candidates in IT were among the most sought-after.

The jobs portal notes that in the coming months, there may be a drop in remote work opportunities, as a result of the recent lifting of the National State of Disaster.

However, it says, the fact that many businesses have already invested in remote working technology to attract top talent and reduce office overhead costs, means the trend is unlikely to disappear from the employment landscape any time soon.

Skills exodus

In the past three months, SA has seen an easing of COVID-19 lockdowns, safety protocols and travel restrictions.

The National State of Disaster was officially lifted on 5 April, and CareerJunction anticipates 2022 will continue to reflect a market recovery in terms of recruitment activity over the next three months.

Of late, local IT execs have expressed concern at the massive exodus of critical IT skills to overseas markets. This, as local talent has become a target of global firms that offer flexible working hours and foreign currency-denominated remuneration.

The top roles with remote working opportunities are software development, data analysis/data warehousing, systems/network administration and business analysis.

Meanwhile, the findings for Q4 2020 to Q1 2021 and Q4 2021 to Q1 2022 reveal volatile salary trends within the IT industry, says CareerJunction.

In contrast, the firm says professionals in account management, data analysis/data warehousing, human resources and financial/project accounting are being offered higher salaries compared to a year ago.

While there is no consistent change in the high end of salary offerings, advertised salary packages for roles in sales, finance and admin, office and support are generally at the same or at a better rate than a year ago.

In the IT sector, CareerJunction says software developers earn R60 000 to R70 000 a month, followed by system/network administrators who take home R45 000 to R55 000, while data analysts rake in R25 000 to R45 000.

Looking at the salary offerings for top in-demand IT skills, the firm says Java development skills attract R44 015 to R64 602 per month, C# development skills (R39 202 to R57 222), .Net development skills (R38 128 to R56 619) and full stack development skills (R36 791 to R59 073).

The report notes there has been a continued increase in recruitment activity over the last 13 months.

“This is encouraging because not only does it signify that employers are showing confidence in the local economy, but also that more opportunities are becoming available for jobseekers despite the ongoing challenges faced by the local economy,” says CareerJunction.

It says between March 2021 and March 2022, hiring activity increased by 39%. This is an uptake of 18% in job advertising, compared to the year-on-year stats for March 2020 to March 2021, it adds.

According to Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Employment Statistics report, released on 31 March 2022, there was a 6.7% increase in gross earnings between December 2020 and December 2021.

CareerJunction points out that although this statistic does not track to inflation, the news is still positive for South African employees.

Mighty Gauteng

Gross earnings increased by R44.3 billion from R783 billion in September 2021, to R827.3 billion in December 2021, equating to an increase of 5.7% in the final quarter of the year.

“This was largely due to increases in the following industries: trade, community services, manufacturing, business services, transport, construction and electricity. Year-on-year, gross earnings increased by R51.7 billion or (6.7%) between December 2020 and December 2021,” the jobs portal says.

Looking at recruitment per location, CareerJunction says it is no surprise that more than 50% of vacancies are based in Gauteng, South Africa's smallest province but largest economic hub.

It notes that just over 30% of job offers are in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

“When we compare Q1 2022 to Q1 2020, Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN show an increased demand for professionals in the manufacturing and assembly sector (Gauteng +28%; Western Cape +23%; KZN +37%).”

It adds that a similar trend is evident for professionals in the admin, office and support sector (Gauteng +13%; Western Cape +3%; KZN +38%).

According to the jobs portal, building and construction professionals enjoy better employment prospects in Gauteng (+10%) and Western Cape (+9%), compared to two years ago.

KZN has shown a decline in demand for building and construction professionals over the last two years (-23%); however, this trend is likely to change in the coming months as a result of the recent flooding and damage in the province, it concludes.

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