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Communications of the ACM


The 2021 Software Developer Shortage Is Coming

chair, desk, and computer screen in a spotlight, illustration

Credit: Dmitry Kovalchuk

While global economies of all scales have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, information technology (IT) companies have managed to survive much of the economic downturn. This is due in large part to their past success in distributed IT development, remote IT operations, and remote maintenance. IT companies have required their staff to essentially do at home what they had been doing in the office years before. Moreover, to meet the constraints of working from home, the demand for IT services has increased across many other market sectors, including retail, entertainment, education, and healthcare, leading to a more profitable IT market.

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Tightening in the Upstream IT Labor Supply

While this news is largely positive for IT companies, the pandemic is also taking its toll on the upstream supply of IT labor, and software developers in particular. These effects could constrain hiring and innovation over the next two to three years. Due in part to travel embargos, limited access to educational loans, and delays in student visa processing, U.S. colleges and universities are observing significant declines in graduate-level enrollments in computer and information science this year. These declines are translating into one-year enrollment deferrals, meaning a temporary, but significant reduction in expected 2021 graduation rates.


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