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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK


Sci/Tech

Net threat to Euro economy

The network skills gap could number 600,000 workers by 2002

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

European economies could be hit hard by an acute shortage of network professionals, according to research by the International Data Corporation.

An IDC report, The Internet Economy - An Employment Paradox?, predicts Western Europe will experience a shortfall of nearly 600,000 network experts by 2002.

Co-author of the report Puni Rajah said small- and medium-sized businesses would be responsible for the largest percentage growth in demand for networking technology. It would increase threefold in the next three years from 1.5% of annual turnover to 4.5%.

Europe 'could slump'

"As one of the fastest growing sectors in Europe, the small to medium enterprise requires experienced networking professionals to cultivate their business effectively.

"Currently there is nowhere they can turn. If the situation is not rectified, Europe could see another economic slump."

The countries facing the biggest shortfall as a percentage and in sheer numbers are Germany and the UK. Supply will not meet demand by 188,000 workers in Germany or by 31% and by 81,000 and 13% in the UK.

But the report, commissioned by the Internet infrastructure company, Cisco Systems, says Switzerland and the Netherlands are the countries which will experience the biggest percentage of growth in demand at 38% and will struggle to close the skills gap.

Effects already being felt

The increasing need for communications, the Internet and e-commerce all confirmed a dependency on networking, it says.

The shortage of skilled workers was already leading to inflated salaries and increased turnover of staff, raising operating costs and lowering profits.

IDC estimates the IT network workforce at 657,000 at the end of 1998. It says, at a conservative growth rate of 26% per annum, 1.6m will be needed by 2002.

It concludes that there is currently no successful strategy to meet the growing demand and there is an acute need for formal education and training programmes to prevent Europe falling further behind the US and Asia.

"Action must be initiated in 1999 in order to capture the opportunities and divert a potential crisis," it says.



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