ICT specialists in employment
- Data extracted in December 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2018.
This article provides an overview of recent developments in the demand for information and communication technology (ICT) specialists in Europe using data on employment as a proxy. ICT specialists are defined as persons who have the ability to develop, operate and maintain ICT systems and for whom ICTs constitute the main part of their job (OECD, 2004).
The introduction of new technologies and digitalisation — often referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ — is having an impact on society through changes to the way that people live, work and interact with one another. ICT has already been the cause of significant changes to both methods of production and patterns of employment within the European Union (EU), and policymakers and researchers therefore have an interest in tracking employment developments for ICT specialists, which influences a country’s comparative advantage in the development, installation and servicing of ICTs.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
- The number of persons employed as ICT specialists in the EU-28 grew by 39.5 % during the period from 2006 to 2016, which was more than 10 times as high as the corresponding increase (3.6 %) for total employment.
- Among the EU Member States, Finland had the highest share (6.6 %) of its total workforce employed as ICT specialists in 2016; in the same year, at least 1 in every 20 persons employed in Sweden, Estonia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands was an ICT specialist.
- In 2016, almost one fifth (19.6 %) of EU-28 ICT specialists worked in the United Kingdom (1.6 million persons).
- Across the EU-28, the vast majority of jobs for ICT specialists in 2016 were held by men; the share of ICT specialists that were women was 16.7 %, some 5.8 percentage points less than a decade before.
- In 2016, more than three fifths (61.8 %) of ICT specialists in the EU-28 had a tertiary level of educational attainment.
- Almost two thirds (63.7 %) of all ICT specialists employed in the EU-28 in 2016 were aged 35 years and over; the proportion of ICT specialists aged 35 and over increased by 6.7 percentage points during the period 2006-2016.
Number of ICT specialists
In 2016, some 8.2 million persons worked as ICT specialists across the EU-28. The highest number (1.6 million) worked in the United Kingdom, which provided work to almost one fifth (19.6 %) of the EU-28’s ICT workforce. Germany (1.5 million) had the second largest ICT workforce (18.8 % of the EU-28 total), followed by France (1.0 million; 12.2 %); none of the remaining EU Member States accounted for a double-digit share.
Across the whole of the EU-28, ICT specialists accounted for 3.7 % of the total workforce in 2016 (see Figure 1); this was 37 % higher than the share recorded in 2006.
Finland had the highest relative share of its total workforce employed as ICT specialists, as its 162 thousand persons employed as ICT specialists represented 6.6 % of total employment. Relatively high shares were also recorded in Sweden, Estonia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands — in 2016, they each reported that at least 1 in 20 persons within their total workforce was employed as an ICT specialist. By contrast, at the other end of the range, ICT specialists accounted for 2.2 % of the total workforce in Cyprus and Latvia, 2.0 % in Romania and 1.4 % in Greece.
General developments in the demand for ICT specialists
During the last decade, the number of persons employed as ICT specialists in the EU-28 generally resisted the effects of the global financial and economic crisis and the downturn experienced in many labour markets. The number of persons employed as ICT specialists grew by 39.5 % during the period from 2006 to 2016, which was more than 10 times as high as the corresponding increase (3.6 %) for total employment (see Figure 3).
Human capital in ICT is a driving force for digital and digital-enabled innovations and may be considered as crucial for the competitiveness of modern-day economies. Although this segment of the labour market is relatively small, ICT employment was relatively resistant to the cyclical nature of economic events during the most recent decade for which data are available. Indeed, as shown in Figure 3, annual rates of change for the number of persons employed as ICT specialists were consistently higher than those recorded for total employment across the EU-28 economy. That said, the rate of change for the number of persons employed as ICT specialists in the EU-28 slowed somewhat during the global financial and economic crisis and its immediate aftermath and in 2010 there was a modest contraction of 0.2 % (compared with the year before) in the number of ICT specialists employed. There was subsequently a rebound in the number of ICT specialists employed in the EU-28, with employment growing by as much as 9.0 % in 2012. Having slowed again in 2013 and 2014, the growth rate quickened somewhat in 2015, with 3.4 % more ICT specialists in the EU-28 compared with the year before, and this pattern was reinforced in 2016 with growth of 6.3 %, which was more than four times as high as the overall growth rate for total employment.
ICT specialists by sex
The vast majority of jobs for ICT specialists in the EU-28 are held by men. The share of ICT employment that was accounted for by men stood at 83.3 % in 2016, which was 5.8 percentage points higher than it had been in 2006 (see Figure 4 and Table 1). In 2016, more than 9 out of every 10 ICT specialists in Slovakia were men (90.8 %). While men accounted for at least 8 out of every 10 ICT specialists in the majority of the remaining EU Member States, there were six Member States where the share of men was lower than this.
In Bulgaria, women accounted for 30.2 % of ICT specialists in 2016 — the highest share among the Member States. Women accounted for close to one quarter of all ICT specialists in Romania, Latvia and Lithuania, and for just over one fifth of all ICT specialists in Finland and Sweden. In absolute terms, there were just over one quarter of a million female ICT specialists employed in the United Kingdom (261 thousand) and Germany (256 thousand) in 2016; these were, by far, the highest levels of female employment, as France (182 thousand) was the only other Member State to record more than 100 thousand women employed as ICT specialists.
A closer analysis of this gender gap reveals that there were only three EU Member States where the female share of ICT specialists rose during the period 2006 to 2016: in Luxembourg, the share of women in the total number of ICT specialists rose from 12.2 % to 13.7 %, while the gains recorded in the Netherlands and Portugal were smaller (less than a single percentage point). By contrast, in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, the relative share of men in the total number of ICT specialists rose at a considerably faster pace, by 24.1, 20.0 and 19.0 percentage points respectively.
Figure 5 shows average annual growth rates for employment among ICT specialists by sex. On average, the number of men employed as ICT specialists in the EU-28 rose by 4.1 % per annum during the period 2006 to 2016, while the corresponding rate for women was 0.3 % per annum. As a result, during the period 2006-2016, the overall number of male ICT specialists increased by 50.1 %, while the overall increase in the number of female ICT specialists was 3.2 %. While there was annual growth in the number of men employed as ICT specialists in each of the EU Member States, there were 10 Member States where the number of female ICT specialists fell; nine of these recorded the lowest overall (male and female) rates of change for ICT employment between 2006 and 2016, while Croatia was the exception, registering overall growth of 6.1 % per annum despite a negative rate of change for the number of female ICT specialists.
Among the non-EU countries, the most pronounced gender bias among ICT specialists in 2016 was registered in Turkey (where men accounted for 90.1 % of the ICT workforce compared with 9.9 % for women). In the three other non-EU countries for which data are available, the gender distribution of the ICT workforce in 2016 was similar to that in the EU-28, as the male shares of ICT specialists in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland were 85.4 %, 80.6 % and 78.0 % respectively.
ICT specialists by level of education
In 2016, more than three fifths (61.8 %) of all ICT specialists in the EU-28 had completed a tertiary level of educational attainment (see Figure 6). The share of ICT specialists with a tertiary level of educational attainment increased during the most recent decade for which data are available, rising from 55.3 % in 2006; in other words, the share of ICT specialists that had a high level of educational attainment rose by 6.5 percentage points between 2006 and 2016.
Among the EU Member States, the highest shares of ICT specialists with a tertiary level of educational attainment were recorded in Ireland and Lithuania, as more than four out of every five persons had such a level of education in 2016. A majority of ICT specialists had a tertiary level of education attainment in all but two of the remaining EU Member States, the exceptions being Italy (32.8 %) and Germany (49.6 %).
An analysis for the period covering 2006 to 2016 reveals that the share of ICT specialists with a tertiary level of educational attainment rose by more than 20 percentage points in Malta, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Latvia and the Czech Republic. Most of the remaining EU Member States also reported that their share of ICT specialists with a tertiary level of educational attainment increased during this period. However, there were seven exceptions: the share of ICT specialists with a tertiary level of educational attainment declined at a modest pace in Belgium, Spain, France and Germany (their share falling by around a single percentage point), while changes were more pronounced in Estonia (-3.4 percentage points), Denmark (-3.8 points) and, in particular, Cyprus (-10.7 points).
Most ICT specialists had tertiary education or higher in all non-EU member states in 2016, with Norway (62.2 %) having the highest share and Turkey (55.3 %) having the lowest share of persons with tertiary level of educational attainment.
ICT specialists by age groups
The age distribution of ICT specialists has been analysed using two age groups: people aged 15-34 years and those aged 35 years and over; note that the upper limit for employment data is 75 years.
In 2016, almost two thirds (63.7 %) of all ICT specialists in the EU-28 were aged 35 and over. Moreover, the proportion of ICT specialists in this older age group increased by 6.7 percentage points between 2006 and 2016; note this rising share may reflect, among others, changes in the age structure of the EU-28 population (with relatively few young compared with middle and older-aged people) and/or a growing share of young people extending their stay within the education system (rather than looking for a job).
In 2016, the EU Member States where people aged 35 and over accounted for the highest shares of ICT specialists included Italy (75.5 %), Finland (71.4 %), Sweden (70.0 %) and Denmark (69.6 %). By contrast, there were four Member States where a majority of ICT specialists were aged 15-34 years, namely, Malta, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania.
Among the non-member countries, Turkey stood out as a majority (65.2 %) of its ICT specialists in 2016 were aged 15-34 years. The other non-member countries generally followed the EU-wide pattern of age distribution for ICT specialists, with people aged 35 years and over accounting for 67.4%, 62.5% and 58.2% of the total number of ICT specialists in Norway, Switzerland and Iceland respectively.
Data sources and availability
The data presented in this article are secondary statistics on ICT specialists derived from the labour force survey (LFS). Data on ICT specialists cover those persons working as specialists across the whole of the economy; no breakdown is available by economic activity.
Statistics for ICT specialists are constructed based on the OECD definition (provided at the start of this article) and defines ICT specialists in terms of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO). Note that for data up until 2010, this classification and aggregation was based on ISCO-88, whereas the data from 2011 onwards are based on ISCO-08; as such, there is a break in series in 2011. Under ISCO-08, Eurostat and OECD define ICT specialists as people with the following occupations: ICT service managers; information and communications technology professionals (software and multimedia developers and analysts, and database specialists and systems administrators); information and communications technicians (ICT operations and user support technicians, and communications technicians); electronic engineers; telecommunication engineers; graphic and multimedia designers; information technology trainers; ICT sales professionals; electronics engineering technicians; electronics mechanics and servicers; ICT installers and servicers.
The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) provides a standard framework to analyse education statistics. Data by level of education/educational attainment up until 2013 are classified according to ISCED 1997 and data from 2014 onwards are classified according to ISCED 2011, under which tertiary education is covered by levels 5-8. The 2011 edition of the ISCED classification defines education systems with respect to the following levels:
Level 0 — less than primary education;
Level 1 — primary education;
Level 2 — lower secondary education;
Level 3 — upper secondary education;
Level 4 — post-secondary non-tertiary education;
Level 5 — short-cycle tertiary education;
Level 6 — bachelor’s or equivalent level;
Level 7 — master’s or equivalent level;
Level 8 — doctoral or equivalent level.
For a more detailed listing and corresponding ISCO and ISCED codes, refer to the metadata for statistics on ICT specialists in employment. Labour force survey reference metadata should be consulted for all questions relating to the underlying primary source data.
Digitalisation and automation can generate new business opportunities through the development of new production processes, new products and new markets. Indeed, the impact of ICTs within the workplace has generally resulted in increased productivity and efficiency, as well as a range of possibilities for more flexible working practices. While these changes have generated a wide range of new jobs, the introduction of ICTs has also led to job losses, for example, as a result of automation.
In recent years, EU policies have given greater attention to ICT skills and in particular to the employment of ICT specialists. The recently updated Digital Single Market strategy emphasises the need for policies designed to boost stability in European labour markets and improve the EU’s competitive position. Monitoring the employment of ICT specialists has therefore become increasingly important. The New Skills Agenda for Europe (2016) launches a number of actions to ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is available for people in the EU. One such action, the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition supports cooperation between education, employment and industry to develop a pool of digital talent in the EU-28, while ensuring that individuals and the labour force in general are equipped with adequate digital skills. One of the important objectives of the European employment policy is to ensure that workers in the EU-28 acquire higher-end skills needed in order to prevent the loss of key ICT jobs to other regions of the world. The European Commission is bringing together EU Member States and a range of stakeholders to pledge actions and to monitor progress in developing digital skills through its Digital Progress Report and the Digital Economy and Society Index.
Further Eurostat information
- Science, technology, digital society
- Digital economy and society (isoc)
- Digital skills (isoc_sk)
- ICT specialists (isoc_sks)
- ICT specialists in employment (isoc_skslf)
- Employed ICT specialists - total (isoc_sks_itspt)
- Employed ICT specialists by sex (isoc_sks_itsps)
- Employed ICT specialists by educational attainment level (isoc_sks_itspe)
- Employed ICT specialists by age (isoc_sks_itspa)
- ICT specialists in employment (isoc_skslf)
- ICT specialists (isoc_sks)
- Digital skills (isoc_sk)
- Digital economy and society (isoc)
Methodology / Metadata
- ICT specialists in employment (ESMS metadata file — isoc_skslf_esms)
- Employment and unemployment (labour force survey) (ESMS metadata file — employ_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Digital Agenda for Europe
- Digital Single Market
- Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition
- E-skills for the 21st century: fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs (COM(2007) 496 final)
- Europe 2020
- European e-Competence Framework
- Skills Panorama
- The e-skills strategy
- The New Skills Agenda for Europe (2016)