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Recruiter Robert Walters: Lift curbs on IT workers’ mobility
February 12, 2016 Blog

This article was originally published by and can be viewed in full here

The head of one of the world’s biggest recruiters has called on governments across the globe to loosen regulations to allow greater mobility for workers in the IT sector to help address the chronic skills shortage in the technology industry.

In an interview with The Australian during a visit to Sydney, Robert Walters, chief executive and founder of recruiter Robert Walters, also said he was cautiously optimistic about the global economic outlook and predicted that the slowing Chinese economy would have a “soft landing’’.

“I don’t see any GFC. I also don’t see any 1991 and that was far worse than the GFC,” he said.

“We are seeing a bit of a wobble and bit of uncertainty. We are in a bit of a grind for the next few months or years but it is not the end of the world.

“At Robert Walters I am quietly confident we will have a boring year this year. Boring is better than bad. And the year after will be better.”

Robert Walters is one of the world’s biggest recruitment consultancies with a global network of 53 offices across 24 countries.

The London-based Mr Walters was in Australia to talk to local clients about the global IT security skills shortage, which has been confirmed by the group’s latest Global Salary Survey released overnight.

The survey found that specialised IT security skills were in high demand particularly in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain and also Australia, especially in cyber security, fintech, e-commerce, big data and analytics.

The survey found some workers in IT roles in Australia were ­expecting upwards of $30,000 ­increases on their current salaries this year.

It has been speculated that Australian technology company Atlassian is paying graduates as much as some investment banking and accounting firms, including luring them with shares in the company, which are now listed on the Nasdaq after a multi-billion-dollar float late last year.

Mr Walters said companies in the tech sector and those engaging IT specialists must be prepared to offer candidates more than a competitive salary and that governments needed to allow workers to more easily move ­between countries.

Up to 20 per cent of his firm’s business globally is in the IT ­sector.

“IT is a global language. There should be a relaxation of regulations on allowing this scarce skill to move across borders. It has to be good for every country to allow the free market to work,” he said, noting work permits needed to be more easily obtained.

“We really should, as a world, get IT skills transferred internationally because the demand is huge.”

His comments come after Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes said last year that Australia needed to import “masses of talent” in the coming years to avoid becoming a technology backwater and face an economy that would be “stuffed” in two ­decades. In its December innovation package the government announced plans to introduce a new entrepreneur’s visa to encourage young tech entrepreneurs to move to Australia.

Robert Walters’ Sydney-based director, Andrew Hanson, said IT was the “fastest-growing area” for his office.

“There are key skills shortages right across the technology market. Cyber security, event management, app and web-based skills and retail and media, particularly around protecting customer information and what is stored in the cloud,” Mr Hanson said. “I don’t think people are aware of how serious the implications are if we don’t focus on drawing more talent into this space.

“Some of the skills shortages can be fixed locally with the right people studying the right degrees and firms being prepared to get in at the grassroots level to train their own, but some of those skills will have to come from overseas.”

The company’s fourth-quarter update released earlier this month revealed Asia-Pacific net fee income was up 11 per cent in constant currency — the eighth quarter of steady growth.

“Our business in Australia and New Zealand is going to grow significantly but not necessarily in the traditional areas of banking, finance and resources,” Mr Walters said. “Instead it will be in healthcare, pharmaceuticals and subsets of IT. And technology is core to that.”