[LINK] Alston, ACS clash over IT unemployment

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd@austarmetro.com.au
Fri, 21 Feb 2003 11:22:40 +1100

It's that troublesome patron again...

Alston, ACS clash over IT unemployment
Feb 21
David Crowe
Fin Review

The Australian Computer Society clashed again with the federal government
yesterday over policy direction for the information technology industry,
this time over the effect of the IT downturn on employment.

The ACS, which has 16,000 members, called for stronger action to boost
employment levels in the IT sector, arguing that unemployment among its
members had reached 11.9 per cent, twice the national average.

But the call was bluntly rejected by the Minister for Communications,
Information Technology and the Arts, Richard Alston, who slammed the ACS
for "blatant grandstanding".

The clash is the second of its kind in recent months, following the release
of an ACS report last November on the high level of IT imports relative to
exports, which Senator Alston rejected as "highly misleading."

Relations between the ACS and Senator Alston's office are understood to be
increasingly strained, limiting the ACS's input into federal policy on
computing and communications.

A local report by Microsoft one year ago, seen by many as a criticism of
federal policy on broadband and other issues, was also rejected by Senator
Alston and took relations between the company and the government to a new

The latest ACS report, based on a survey of 889 members, found that 11.9
per cent were out of work and that the rate was even higher for members
aged 36-40 and 51-55. Unemployment among women members was 12.3 per cent.

Of those respondents who were unemployed, more than 18 per cent were aged

The society's national president, Richard Hogg, said the country needed
more programs to retrain computer staff by encouraging them to return to

One idea put forward yesterday was to offer incentives, such as waiving
higher education charges, for those who wanted to use their IT skills as
teachers. "There would need to be financial support while they were
studying education," Mr Hogg said. "There's a recognised shortage of IT
teachers in secondary level particularly." He said the ACS was already
discussing the idea with some state education departments.

Senator Alston rejected the report for its key findings and its
methodology, using recent national employment figures to argue that
unemployment averaged 3.8 per cent among IT professionals in 2002.

"Hopefully, anyone seriously interested in the issue will not be misled by
such a blatant grandstanding exercise," he said in a statement. "It is
important that those who represent the ICT sector are not unnecessarily
negative about the state of the industry unless their conclusions can be
fully backed up by the facts."

In this business you either sink or swim or you don't
--David Snell


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia