Salaries in the IT industry have risen an average of 25% in the past year, but 33% of employees still believe they are underpaid. They also know they are in high demand, and a massive 52% have actively applied for other jobs in the past 12 months, according to the latest salary survey by the online publisher ITWeb. The hi-tech brain drain is continuing, with 5% of the respondents having accepted a job overseas in the past few months.

A global shortage of technology skills is fuelling the job-hopping, as local companies compete to recruit from a scarce pool of talent and as foreign companies seek to plug their own gaps with South Africans.

The survey found that, overall, male IT staff enjoyed a pay rise of 29% to earn an average of R28340 a month, while women earned an average of R23913, up 21% from last year. The industry is still heavily skewed towards pale males, with 82% of the 3400 respondents being male and 65% being white.

That probably reflects the demographics of the industry quite accurately, although ITWeb's editorial director, Ranka Jovanovic, said the figures could be slightly exaggerated as ITWeb's readers were largely white and male. The salaries being paid vary enormously. Lowest of the low are help desk staff, earning an average of just R9500 a month.

The job title that generally pulls in most cash is chief information officer, with an average monthly package of R50000. The specific skills that reap the highest rewards are enterprise architects, outsourcing gurus and enterprise resource planning specialists.

Among the highest earners were an IT project manager on an annual package of R1,3m and a systems engineer pulling in R960000 a year. Contract workers can fare even better, with a disaster recovery specialist and a software architect both claiming to earn R1,4m.

Despite those big-buck boasts, Jovanovic said, a high salary was not the key factor determining whether an IT worker was happy in their job. The challenge of the job and the atmosphere at work were cited as more important factors in determining their overall satisfaction, with pay ranking as the third most important element.

But for those who were unhappy at work, 33% felt undervalued, while 29% said they would switch jobs because they were stagnating and saw no career opportunities with their company.

Bryan Hattingh, MD of the leadership consultancy Cycan, said the global shortage of IT skills was bad enough to be materially damaging some companies. The shortage had been caused by the negligence of companies in not training people up when the technology sector was in the doldrums. Now that technology had become essential to practically every business and needed people to run it, companies were literally paying the price for their past negligence by having to pay ever-increasing wages.

Business Day