Expansion in the digital sector could lead to 1.5 million new jobs, a new report shows.

Thursday 28 March 2013

IT contractors will benefit from a potential boom in employment created by the expansion of web-based and digital industries, according to a new report.

The EU’s digital economy could create as many as 1.5 million new jobs, according to Vlerick Business School’s report for IAB, an association representing digital and interactive marketers.

One per cent of EU gross domestic product (GDP) currently stems from the digital industry, amounting to nearly €120 billion (£101 billion), the report says.

In total, around 3.4 million Europeans work in the digital economy today, which could soon be increased by nearly 50 per cent.

The UK is one of the strongest performers, having the highest number of employees in the sector out of all 27 member states. In fact, 55 per cent of all IT workers in Europe are based in the ‘big three’ of the UK, France and Germany. As a percentage of their populations, however, Ireland and Sweden come out on top.

Ireland’s recent economic woes have led to a drive to boost growth by encouraging its digital sector. Part of its action plan is to make sure that a higher proportion of its graduates qualify in IT-based subjects than any other country in Europe.

Ireland is using its year-long presidency of the European council to spearhead similar plans across the Union. Earlier this month, the council of employment ministers announced a ‘grand coalition’ aimed at relieving a desperate shortage of IT skills in the EU while fighting unemployment and kick-starting growth.

Among the plans which will directly benefit contractors, the coalition makes provision for pan-European IT certification, which will have the advantage of being universally recognised so that contractors can work anywhere in the Union.

Support and advice will be made available to professionals looking to relocate to areas with particular shortages of IT skills, meaning that UK contractors will be able to move freely for different projects.

Of course, Europe’s digital boom is not just good news for IT contractors marketing professionals with digital experience are also set to benefit. Demand for digital marketing freelancers has soared in the past year, and continued expansion should ensure that this trend lasts for several years yet.

In the past 15 years, the digital economy has been responsible for anywhere from four to 15 per cent of the Union’s growth, Vlerick’s report says. Even as Europe has struggled financially in recent years, the industry has maintained a strong rate of development. Since 2008, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden have seen anything from an eighth to one third of their growth stem from the Internet and related industries. In terms of GDP, this amounted to between 1.7 and 6.3 per cent.

The world leader in digital advertising is the US, where the internet was found to contribute 3.8 per cent of GDP. Vlerick stresses that the digital sector was found to be key to the US’ recovery from economic difficulties, driving growth when many other industries were either stagnating or in decline.

If the same rate of change is seen in the UK and the rest of the EU, contractors will be able to exploit even more favourable business conditions while contributing to European economic recovery.

By Victoria McDonnell

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