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Number of public sector IT professionals rockets

Bill Goodwin

IT employment in the public sector has grown dramatically over the past four years following huge investments by central and local government in IT, research by sector skills council E-Skills UK has revealed.

The number of IT professionals working in the public sector has risen by 28%, from 109,000 at the end of 2001 to 140,000 at the end of 2005, the latest E-Skills Bulletin found.

The public sector now accounts for 14% of the IT professionals working in the UK, up from 11% in 2001, according to E-Skills’ analysis of data collected by the government’s Office of National Statistics.

“There has been a great deal of public sector money spent on IT over the past few years. It has grown while spending has been shrinking or stagnant in the private sector,” said Philip Virgo, strategic adviser to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.

E-Skills found that IT managers and support technicians together account for 75% of the public sector IT workforce. Over the past four years, the number of IT directors in the public sector has risen by 47%, and the number of support staff is up by 20%.

The growth comes despite the fact that take-home pay for public sector IT staff is on average £90 less than the private sector average, at £570 a week.

But outside London, public sector pay rates are comparable, if not better than the private sector, particularly in the North East and the North West, said Virgo.

Other perks are attracting IT professionals to the public sector, including shorter working hours, at an average of 39 hours a week, compared to 43 hours a week in the private sector.

Public sector staff also get longer holidays, typically receiving 26 days’ paid holiday a year, compared with 24 days for those working in the private sector.

However, the good times are unlikely to last, said Virgo, with public sector spending expected to come under greater pressure this year.

“The public sector is being squeezed, the health sector is being squeezed, and big projects such as ID cards are being put back,” said Virgo.

 

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