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A Demographic Snapshot of the IT Workforce in Europe

  1. Introduction
  2. The Typical ICT Worker and the Gender Gap
  3. Europe's Efforts to Meet Demand for ICT Specialists
  4. Author
  5. Footnotes
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Europe is not a static entity but here is what it looks like in 2019: The European Union is made up of 28 countries. The capital is in Brussels, Belgium, and the presidency is shared among EU members each semester. In 2019, the first semester sees Romania holding presidency until June, then Finland until the end of the year. An estimated 551.8 million people live in the EU, speaking 24 official languages. Approximately 72% of the population is employed,a which is greater than the pre-economic-crisis peak of 2008. Men are more employed than women by an average of 11%.b

The ICT workforce in the EU counts some 8.4 million people. The U.K. alone provides almost 20% of this workforce, although it only accounts for 12.8% of the EU population. The second and third providers are Germany and France, but the proportions are more coherent with their population ratios. The number of ICT specialists has grown over 36% in the last 10 years,c a significant jump from a mere 3.2% a decade ago. This marked increase helps explain why ICT employment has resisted the effects of the region’s overall financial crisis.

The countries that lead the ICT sector in Europe today are the ones that invested a great deal of time and resources 20 years ago, especially in education.

Obviously, the raw numbers favor the most populated countries, but the proportion of ICT specialists in total employment country by country tells a different story, as Nordic countries lead the way. Finland comes first with 6.8% of its workforce dedicated to ICT.d In comparison, Germany is much further behind with 3.8%, and France tailing Germany with 3.7%. The other two leaders are Sweden and Estonia with 6.6% and 5.6% of their respective workforces dedicated to ICT. Both Finland and Sweden are home to very efficient teaching methods as they integrated computer studies into their school curricula since the Nokia and Ericsson years. The two mobile phone companies actually spirited a whole generation to place their trust in ICT. As for Estonia, political decisions taken 20 years ago turned the country into “one of the most advanced digital societies in the world.”e Despite its small size, Denmark is also very active in ICT and has attracted big corporate names, such as Microsoft, Uber, and IBM.

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The Typical ICT Worker and the Gender Gap

The overall picture of the European ICT worker can be summed up as follows: A male over 35 with tertiary education diploma. Almost two-thirds of all people employed as ICT specialists in the EU are over 35 years of age.f Europe does have quite a significant unemployment rate of 65.3% for those under 24 years old. Postsecondary education also plays a role in the ICT population as over 62% of all ICT specialists in the EU have completed tertiary level education,g with the highest shares of this attainment found in Lithuania, Ireland, Cyprus, and Spain.

The vast majority of people employed as ICT specialists are men. They account for 82.8% of the total ICT workforce.h The number of women in ICT has actually decreased by 5% during the last 10 years, with only slight increases noted in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. However, Bulgaria has the highest proportion of women in ICT as they account for 26.5% of the workforce. The total proportion of employed women in the EU (across all sectors) is 66.4%, but rises well above those figures in countries like Germany (75.2%), Estonia (75.1%), and Finland (72.4%).

The dear need of ICT specialists. The demand for ICT specialists in the EU is very high. One in five businesses need ICT workers across all sectors of the economy.i Larger companies have also reported challenges recruiting skilled ICT workers. In 2017, 48% of nine companies that recruited or tried to recruit reported difficulties in filling vacancies. This applies to all countries in the EU. Depending on projections,j the expected shortage of 10 skilled ICT workers in the EU starts at 526,000 individuals in 2020. In the case of a high-growth estimate, this shortage could reach over 900,000 workers. Because the shortage is global, salaries have increased to attract skilled individuals. Salaries in the U.S., however, are much higher.k For example, the average salary for a software developer in the U.S. is $92,240 and $43,749 in France. This induces a brain drain of talent, which brings about two pernicious side effects in Europe: lack of senior specialists and lack of qualified trainers for upcoming workers. However, a mere comparison of salaries would be inaccurate. Workers in France pay very little for healthcare and have almost no education expenses (both financed with taxes). Most young workers start their professional life with no student loans to pay back.

Figure. Index of the number of persons employed as ICT specialists.

Figure. Proportion of ICT specialists in total employment.

The sectors where demands are the highest vary according to studies, but all agree that big data analytics and business analyticsl are the most sought-after.

Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Turkey are not members of the EU, but are located inside or close to the European continent. Is their position in the ICT ecosystem any different from EU members? Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland relate to the EU’s average statistics. Turkey, on the other hand, sets itself apart with just 0.9% of its workforce in ICT and only 10% of those are women.m Moreover, Turkey has almost two-thirds of its ICT workforce under the age of 34, which is the exact opposite of the EU numbers.

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Europe’s Efforts to Meet Demand for ICT Specialists

Despite a variety of ICT opportunities available in Europe, it lags behind the U.S. and China. The brain drain mentioned earlier and the difficulty to standardize actions throughout the vast continent hinders efforts to catch up.

Following the demands of top IT scientists in 2018, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) was founded last December.n Focusing mainly on artificial intelligence and, more broadly, on machine learning, they aim to create a network to advance breakthroughs across the continent and educate the next generation of AI researchers.

The U.K. invested £1 billion in artificial intelligenceo in 2018 and created the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to monitor the AI research.

The countries that lead the ICT sector in Europe today are the ones that invested a great deal of time and resources 20 years ago, especially in education. In order to catch up, much effort must be focused on developing computer science in school.

It appears that a huge potential ICT workforce resides with women. They must be encouraged, very early on in school, to embrace ICT careers. This would lead to a more balanced sector, improve women’s employment rates, and help reduce the shortage in ICT specialists.p

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