Tim Bray wonders if IT is a good career possibility anymore. Scoble ponders teaching his kid Chinese. Meanwhile, they (and most of the other bloggers, for that matter) are missing the trendlines completely. Business 2.0 has a very interesting article on this topic in the September issue (which is not online yet, so no direct links. The short answer - get ready for a sellers market in the IT realm again, and soon.
Ok, your immediate reaction is that I'm nuts. People have been getting laid off in droves, and offshore outsourcing has been all over the news of late. So where am I coming from? Simple - demographics. The demographic trends indicate a coming shortage, starting sometime in the next two years. And based on the numbers, it could easily be a bigger crunch than 1998-2000. What's driving this? The baby boom generation is starting to retire, and that cohort is bigger than the ones following it - by a lot. Just look around any IT shop, and what do you see? An awful lot of people within a few years of retirement
What's that you say? That the stock market tumble and loss of 401k value will keep them at work? The trend towards early retirement has been solid for 40 years now, through downturns a lot more severe than the recent one. Even the Social Security Administration - which would love later retirement as a way of being able to show better long term numbers - can't find evidence of people staying at work.
Ok, what about growth rates, automation, and immigration then? Automation hasn't slowed employment in the tech sector in the past - it's just shifted it. Immigration - legal or otherwise - isn't big enough to cover the lossage. And even if we assume average growth rates, the demographics show a crunch. What about all that outsourcing? Well, the most aggressive analysts predict something like 3.5 million jobs leaving to other shores over the next 15 years. India has something like 150,000 tech workers - which is barely 2% of the size of the US tech force. In other words, even if costs stay low there (which they won't), it's a small impact.
The doom and gloom outlook in this sector is overstated, and overstated badly. The demographics pretty much ensure a turn-around - and more quickly than you think. Go to a newstand and grab the Business 2.0 mag for September, and have a look at the charts.