Software developers becoming scarce

Jeff Feinman
June 12, 2009 —  (Page 1 of 2)
The number of “software publishers,” defined as operations necessary for producing and distributing software, has dipped slightly in the United States through 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January, there were 262,100 publishers in the U.S., according to the bureau. That number decreased to 260,500 in February, 259,300 in March, and 258,100 in April.

Analysis firm Evans Data also released research pointing to a decline in software developers. In its 2009 Global Developer Population and Demographics Study, released in May, Evans Data revised downward its prior forecasts of developer growth for several major industrial regions, including North America, Western Europe and Japan.

For 2009, Evans Data originally estimated that there would be approximately 15.2 million developers worldwide. However, it has reduced that estimated by about 600,000 in the current report.
In North America, Evans Data projected in a previous report that the developer population would grow to 3.85 million in North America during 2009. In the current report, it changed that figure to 3.72 million based on current economic conditions. Evans did not disclose data on other regions.

Evans Data publishes the Global Developer Population and Demographics Study every six months. CEO John Andrews said that Evans Data had to revise its forecast as a result of the economic climate, the first time it’s ever had to do so. Evans looks at census information and, moreover, IT and communications spending in putting together its forecasts.

“The major driver to the decrease in the forecast is the whole communications and IT spending situation,” Andrews said. “That comes as no surprise to anyone.”

During the last big economic downturn for the software industry, the dot-com implosion in the early part of the decade, many development jobs also were lost. Bill Evjen, who heads global platform architecture for financial reporting services company Thomson Reuters, said that the current bust period, and the ensuing realization that a computer science career was no longer a guarantee of personal riches, has taken a toll on the developer population.

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06/16/2009 09:00:58 AM EST

The "small" insurance company I work for has been outsourcing large programming projects to a company in India. The price is right for it. This practice has to have an effect on the numbers here in the United States.

United StatesMichael Moynihan

06/16/2009 09:54:09 AM EST

As an adjunct professor of CS at a local community college, I always pointed out to my students that because of blantant age discrimination (sometimes called "outsourcing" or "offshoring"), a typical software career lasts about as long as a typical football career. BTW, I'm still writing software for a living, and I'm nearly 60.

United StatesTX CHL Instructor

06/16/2009 10:25:40 AM EST

Business abuses the H1-B visa program and imports cheap, poor-quality replacement developers. Pay is flat or declining in real dollars. Developers also face a fuzzy career path where they top out after a few years and can only advance by moving to management. Why would you want to do this job? Go into a real engineering field instead.

United StatesNuke

06/16/2009 10:50:48 AM EST

While I agree with the above comment, to an extent. 'Less is not always more' the indsustry did this to itself. Investment in short term positions is always a mistake. Contracting out jobs is short term savings, but long term a small team of solid development personnel is a huge value. In this day and age of ever evolving markets, you cant just keep hitting the reset button. A 'phoenix' is not evolution; its revolution. Revolution creates a new starting point but starts with little or no experience. :)

United StatesAnti-Nuke

06/16/2009 10:54:55 AM EST

@Nuke, H1B has wage restrictions. Also, the companies utilizing the services of H1 workers offer them pay equivalent to what they have to pay to a US citizen; it's never cheap. I really am surprised how ignorant people can get on these things and then be judgmental about it. H1B worker should never be confused with "offshoring" or "outsourcing" -- they are two different things. And lets not talk (at least not generalize) about quality of work. I've seen both sides of it.

United StatesRajeev

06/16/2009 11:45:46 AM EST

The beginning of this article talks about downward changes to academic "projections" in the number of programmers then analyzes these projections as if they were actual changes. Toward the end, it talks about actual increases in student enrollment, and compares this trend to projection changes. Seems like a lot of of hot air and wasted data bits to me. Did the number of programmers actually decline in 2000-present? If so, and the number of student enrollment is now increasing, then analyze that!

United StatesTheWind

06/16/2009 11:47:24 AM EST

H1B costs more than off-shoring, but they are indeed paid about 10% to 15% less than permanent residents. I've heard of cases where consulting first were recruiting foreigners for H1B visas that hadn't yet won the contracts to put them on. (So much for claim that "We have this work to do and cannot find anyone locally to do it.") Before there was off-shoring you'd sometimes see a job ad with offered pay about 50% below the going rate -- just so that the employer could say, "We tried to hire someone locally, but no one responded to our ad." As for the suggesting of going into a "real" engineering field, I think engineers also quickly top out in pay unless they move into management. It's just that engineers in management still call themselves engineers, whereas IT people in management no longer call themselves programmers. The pay for programmers (and non-management engineers) has always been significantly lower than that for other professions requiring comparable intelligence, but programming seems to be more within the capabilities of highly intelligent people with mild autism-like mental deficits that preclude them from management and many other occupations. Computing may become more popular with students as we get around to off-shoring many of the jobs in medicine and law. Who knows, American corporations may soon discover that they can also outsource many of their executive management functions to India at a tenth of the pay.

United Statesfsilber

06/22/2009 09:37:16 AM EST

I'm a software developer, and I've never been more busy. How are you counting guys like me? There will always be a need for local developers, but it may be decreasing. It's what you know and how fast you can adapt to new markets.

United StatesRobert

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