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Love or hate your IT dept, money talks – and tech workers are getting more of it

Show you’re worth it, demand more

Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

It's up to our writers to convince you to vote for their side.

This week's motion is: The pandemic improved the status of IT workers … forever.

Whether tech workers saved the world during the pandemic or whether we should thank health workers and researchers is one for another day. But tech workers certainly kept business and the public sector going, helping organisations pivot to online and by allowing employees to work remotely. But a year on, has the hero effect worn off? Or can they, should they, expect a permanently elevated status? Four highly qualified observers will give their perspectives through the course of the week. But it’s you that gets to decide.

Writing FOR the motion today is Joe Fay, who has covered the technology industry for 30 years and has edited publications in London and San Francisco.

Has the pandemic elevated the status of IT workers forever?

The first thing to say is that forever is a long time.

So, first of all, let’s look things in the short term. All our contributors this week are agreed that it was tech – and tech workers – that enable business to carry on during the pandemic. And, indeed, for social lives to carry on too. It was tech pros who kept social platforms ticking over, and other tech pros who help their family members set up video conference sessions or maintain Whatsapp groups.

Yes, people do get blasé about any technology in time, and the halo effect can fade. (Which you might be pleased about when you’ve got to set up aunty Sheila on yet another social platform)

So, are there other, harder, indicators we can consider? Tech workers are certainly in demand. In the UK, the demand for tech workers was up 42 per cent in June 2021 according to research from Tech Nation. Now, you might say, the economy was in the toilet a year earlier, so of course there are more vacancies. But that 42 per cent rise is actually on June 2019. You know, the before times when the economy was, apparently, humming.

Tech nation adds that “more so than ever, tech is an enabler for broad based economic growth”. So, it’s not just a recognition that you need techies to do, well, tech. Rather, it’s a recognition that they are needed to underpin business success full stop, whether that’s designing and maintaining the front end systems that allow business to reach their customers even in the depths or lockdown, or the backend systems that help companies manage a supply chain crunch. (Up to a point).

But you probably want something even more tangible than that. Or at least evidence that fits in your pay packet. So, the same Tech Nation report points out that the average tech salary is half as much again as the average for all vacancies, and this gap is increasing.

Moreover tech roles account for over half of roles in the £50,000 to £70,000 bracket and three quarters of roles in the £100,000 to £150,000 band. And on a global scale, flags up a “spike in demand for top tech talent”. If some areas show a small decrease, it says, that’s because of companies taking on more and more junior staff. Experienced staffers have seen their salaries continue to increase – and expect them to increase further in the next six months.

Yes, some roles are more in demand than others. It’s front-end developers and data scientists who are seeing the biggest increases, according to Tech Nation.

And on a broader scale, have techies increased their bargaining power? The fact that the likes of Google and Microsoft have to at least give the impression that they care about the ethical implications of what they ask devs to do suggests yes.

Is this all temporary thing? As I said, forever is a long time. But employers aren’t just going to award you a bundle of cash, tailor a bundle of benefits and change their ethical stance without you asking for it.

But for that to happen, you first have to believe that, in the words of the shampoo ad, “I’m worth it”.

So, why not take the first step, here. Believe in yourself, and vote yes to the proposal. Today the Register debate. Tomorrow the world. And let’s not think too much beyond that. ®

Cast your vote below. We'll close the poll on Thursday night and publish the final result on Friday. You can track the debate's progress here.

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