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IT recruitment in public sector hits rock bottom

Cancelling IT projects can be a false economy

The number of new IT jobs created by the public sector has slumped in the last two years, according to research from a major technology recruitment agency.

Just five percent of new IT jobs are in the public sector in the UK, according to ReThink Recruitment. The research, based on analysis of over 3,500 jobs in May and June 2012, shows that IT recruitment in the public sector has not recovered from the dramatic post-election slump that it endured last year.

ReThink says that at the start of 2010, before the last general election, around 30 percent of new IT roles were in the public sector. The government wants the private sector to make up the shortfall in employment as public sector jobs are lost as a result of public spending cuts.

Michael Bennett, director at ReThink Recruitment, said: "The government's austerity programme has had a devastating effect on the public sector's recruitment of IT contractors. Whilst the hiring of IT staff in the private sector is beginning to recover, this is definitely not the case in the public sector. Just a tiny proportion of new jobs are now in public sector roles."

According to Office of National Statistics data (June 2012), some 20 percent of UK workers in total are now employed within the public sector.

Bennett said: "Before the coalition government started implementing its austerity regime the public sector had been making much more use of IT staff. Withdrawing major government IT projects, coupled with recruitment freezes in many government departments, has completely reversed this trend."

ReThink saw "weak employment in the public sector for some time to come". The "irony", it said, was "that sensible investment in IT could see the public sector cut substantially into its cost base".

Major government projects involving the heavy use of IT contractors, that have been cancelled over the last two years, include the NHS national electronic database, second generation biometric passports, the ID cards programme, the Contact Point child protection database, and the development of new defence technologies.

Bennett said: "With such low levels of IT investment in the public sector there seems little alternative but to switch."

IT remains a better sector than many others for recruitment, however. The growth in IT jobs continues to outstrip that of the overall jobs market, according to the monthly Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG Report on Jobs. The fastest growing sectors for recruitment were IT and engineering and construction.

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