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Leadership / Workforce

Java, SQL and Python are the most in-demand digital skills globally

Covid-19 has turbocharged the rate of digitisation, accelerating global demand for software developers with skills in Java, SQL and Python.

The wave of digitisation brought about by Covid-19 has turbocharged demand for top tech talent, exacerbating the pre-pandemic shortage of data scientists and software developers. But, despite the global imbalance in supply and salaries, tech companies will not look to offshore more roles, say analysts.

Software developers remain the most in-demand hires across the globe, with skills in programming languages Java, SQL and Python the most popular requirements in tech and business service job listings, according to data from tech intelligence platform Cityglobe.

These trends pre-date the pandemic but have been turbocharged by the increased pace of digitisation observed over the past year, says Fintan Ryan, senior director analyst at Gartner: “There’s been a recognition of just how much these kinds of development skills are necessary.”

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While there is growing interest in new programming languages like Google’s Go and Dark among smaller organisations and innovation teams, blockbuster demand at enterprise level for Java and SQL developers will continue for the foreseeable future, adds Ryan.

The US, India and China boast the largest supply of software developers to address this demand, while European hubs like France and Germany face the most acute shortages, according to Cityglobe.

While India is identified as the top location for investment with large pools of Javascript Developers and C++ Engineers, the US is currently best placed to address talent demand shortages, says Cityglobe CEO Marek Banczyk. “The US is best equipped to cope with the global pattern of demand for tech talents even though it has less IT developers than China [as] the structure of the US supply is better tailored to the global trends in demand.”

Recruiting cloud architects? Look to the US

The US is also the runaway leader for the supply of cloud architects, with a TTI supply score – a measure of local supply weighted by global demand for those skills – almost four times higher than China, the next biggest source for talent, according to Cityglobe.

Even before the pandemic, there was a notable shift to the cloud by enterprises, but the pandemic has been a catalyst for adoption, and vendors that have doubled down on their cloud strategy are reaping the benefits.

Unsurprisingly, the US is the most mature cloud market. Although other regions are beginning to catch up, the US leads by a couple of years by virtue of being the home market of the cloud giants. Cloud architects who are certified in these major platforms are in especially high demand, Ryan explains. “AWS-certified architects will command a premium [over] just about anyone else,” he says.

Cloud adoption will only increase in the years to come: spending on the cloud is expected to represent more than 14% of global enterprise IT budgets in 2024, up from 9.1% last year, according to Gartner’s forecasts.

The “significant intensification” of digitisation due to the pandemic means that these specialist tech skills are no longer just the purview of IT enterprises and are in high demand across all industries, says Olga Strietska-Ilina, senior skills and employability specialist at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“Someone has to code all of this; someone has to upgrade all the software,” she says. “We’re really at the beginning of one new wave of technological innovation, which is sparked by Covid-19.”

In-demand digital skills: data scientists

Data scientists are still some of the most in-demand hires across the globe, especially in South Asia, where more than 3% of tech and business service jobs require this skill set, according to Cityglobe’s data.

The high demand for data scientists is just one of the many parallels between the US and South Asia, particularly India, says Cityglobe’s Banczyk. “Such a picture combined with the comparison of the export figures for ICT services of China, India and USA suggests that certain parts of this demand in India is driven by the US outsourcing practices,” he says. “The US-India connection in the IT world interestingly echoes the possible emerging geopolitical alliance between the two giants.”

There is a notable concentration of the supply of data scientists in the US, which comes as no surprise as it is the region where they can command the highest salaries. Top tech hires in the US are at least 20% more expensive than the UK or Germany, per Cityglobe data.

There is still a notable gulf in pay between the global north and south, with no signs of convergence in spite of “enormous demand” and the “spectacular success of hotspots like Bangalore”, says Banczyk.

“Despite about two full decades of remote working [in the] environment for software developers, the differences in salaries – but also in concentration of talents and demand structure in the world – persist,” he says. “It is unlikely that the widely proclaimed Covid-induced flattening of the world in terms of income will ever happen.”

This view is echoed by Gartner’s Ryan, pointing to the decision by tech giants like Facebook to cut the pay of employees who choose to work remotely as a signal for the direction that will be taken by the wider industry.

“Outsourcing will continue to decline overall because most companies have realised that outsourcing development is just not a good model,” he says. “It won’t be anything to the level people think it is going to be right now; the sheer logistics around it and how you do it makes it very, very complex.”

Amy Borrett

Amy Borrett was the resident data journalist at Tech Monitor.