by Divina Paredes

Outpacing the Aussies

Sep 30, 20033 mins
Technology Industry

For around a year, information technology staff in New Zealand have been benefiting from a #8216;double whammy#8217; in salaries, compared with their Australian counterparts. According to a survey by Classified Salary Information Services (CSi), New Zealand IT staff remaining in the same position received an average 4.4 per cent increase in total remuneration (base salary plus benefits and variable pay) in the year to August 2003 and base salaries rose 4.6 per cent on average. This is well above the current consumer price index (CPI) of 1.5 per cent.

By comparison, IT industry incumbents in Australia received an average rise of 4.1 per cent in total remuneration and 3.6 per cent in base salaries. With the CPI sitting at 2.7 per cent, Australians have received only modest #8216;real#8217; salary increases, says CSi.

The New Zealand IT and T Industries Salaries and Benefits Survey covered 57 New Zealand organisations, representing 6764 IT employees.

An IT manager in a manufacturing firm says the survey results indicate the New Zealand market is #8220;catching up#8221; with Australia. A few years ago, says this manager who declined to be identified, the equivalent IT job in Australia would pay better than here. His own salary increase was higher than the average cited in the CSi survey.

The good news, however, does not apply to other industries. Ed Saul, chief information officer, Tower Group, says financial services have been under a lot of pressure and experienced industry layoffs. #8220;It has been an employer#8217;s market for a couple of years. There is greater supply than demand,#8221; says Saul. #8220;This is evident when we recruit. There are many more applicants now than in previous years.#8221;

Less than average

Saul says pay increases for IT people in the financial services sector have been less than the average in the CSi survey. He points out, though, Australian pay increases have indeed been lower than in New Zealand. #8220;In fact, when recruiting, we are finding some pay levels have decreased #8211; particularly at the upper end of the scale.#8221;

Nick Woodward, CSi remuneration and benefits client specialist, says the New Zealand market has bottomed out and is on its way up. The recent survey shows salaries have increased, albeit modestly, #8220;But it is still there.#8221;

Base salary increases for the New Zealand IT and T industry peaked in August 2001, after three years of increases, before declining in February 2002. Woodward attributes this to the #8220;employers#8217; market#8221; resulting from weakening global conditions; a strong supply of candidates due to immigration; and Kiwis returning from the depressed UK contractors#8217; market.

Steve Johansen, Port of Napier information systems manager, says there may be plenty of mid-range skills to choose from, but there is a #8220;real scarcity at the top end#8221;.

In the past year, Johansen has found trying to recruit a staff member vexing. #8220;We were after someone with top notch network and communication skills and were able to offer Auckland rates with the attraction of a Hawke#8217;s Bay lifestyle. I would have thought that it would be pounced on, but it took us quite a few months to find someone with the right skill set.#8221;