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28 Nov 2019

More than 100,000 vacant IT expert jobs for the first time

  • Number of unfilled positions rises by 51 percent to 124,000 within one year
  • IT jobs remain vacant for six months on average
  • Two thirds of the companies expect a further tightening


The number of vacancies for IT specialists reaches a new record high. There are currently 124,000 vacancies for IT specialists in Germany. This represents an increase of 51 percent compared to the previous year (82,000). Within two years, the number of unfilled IT positions has thus more than doubled (2017: 55,000). This is the result of a study on the job market for IT specialists presented today in Berlin by the digital association Bitkom. It is based on a representative survey of more than 850 managing directors and human resources managers in companies with 3 or more employees from all industries. 83 percent said that they experience a shortage of IT specialists on the job market, compared to only 67 percent two years ago. At the same time, two thirds (65 percent) expect the situation to worsen in the coming years. "The shortage of IT experts has long since affected not only the IT sector, but the entire economy as well as administration, government agencies and science. As digitization accelerates, the demand for IT specialists will continue to rise sharply in the coming years," said Bitkom President Achim Berg. "Every unfilled IT position costs sales, burdens the innovative ability of companies and slows down the necessary digital transformation. The lack of IT experts threatens the competitiveness of our entire economy".

In every sixth company, IT positions remain vacant for more than half a year

IT jobs are much harder for companies to fill than other positions. For example, 4 out of 10 companies (40 percent) state that it takes longer to fill IT positions than other positions; a year ago the figure was 31 percent, which is significantly lower. The average time for which an open IT position remains vacant has also risen from five to six months. In 18 percent of the companies, IT positions usually remain vacant for more than six months, whereas a year ago this was only the case in 10 percent of the companies. Berg: "IT has significantly shorter innovation cycles than other business areas. A vacancy for half a year or more is a small eternity and can lead to projects being relocated to other countries or not coming about at all".

Software developers are particularly sought after

Software developers are particularly sought after. Every third company with at least one open IT position (32 percent) is looking for programmers. They are followed by IT application support staff (18 percent), data scientists (13 percent), IT project managers (12 percent), IT consultants and IT service managers (10 percent each). "The high demand for software developers shows the serious changes that are taking place in companies as a result of digitalization," said Berg. "Software is increasingly becoming part of the core business. This means that software development is moving into companies across all industries and is gaining massively in importance there".

Salary expectations and qualifications of the applicants do not match

The difficulties that companies have in filling IT positions are manifold. The most common complaint is that applicants' salary demands are too high (72 percent) and do not match their qualifications (52 percent). 4 out of 10 companies (41 percent) report a general lack of professional qualifications on the part of applicants and poor test results in the selection process (27 percent), or a lack of necessary knowledge of new technologies such as AI or Blockchain (9 percent). One in three companies (32 percent) misses the necessary soft skills such as teamwork skills among applicants, and one in five (20 percent) has applicants who are not prepared to go on business trips or relocate. One in eight companies (12 percent) receives virtually no applications for advertised vacancies. "IT experts can choose their job almost freely if they have the appropriate qualifications," says Berg.

Companies often approach IT specialists through the wrong channels

In Berg's view, companies would be well advised to change the way they approach potential applicants. A broad majority of companies say that candidates can apply to them by e-mail (97 per cent) or in writing by application folder (83 per cent). Only a minority, on the other hand, uses online application tools (26 percent) or allows applications to be submitted from business networks with a click of the mouse (6 percent). Just 1 percent use application apps. "Companies urgently need to adapt their application procedures to the digital world. A printed cover letter with certificates and work samples is of little help in getting a picture of a software developer. A concise mail with links to successful projects and their source code on appropriate platforms is much more meaningful," said Berg.

Companies search online for suitable candidates themselves

Personnel recruitment will change considerably in the coming years. For example, 7 out of 10 companies (70 percent) assume that so-called active sourcing will become significantly more important in the next five years. The companies search for suitable candidates in business networks or on online platforms and write to them. Cooperation with universities (59 percent), headhunters and recruitment agencies (58 percent), career fairs (54 percent), online job exchanges (52 percent) and business networks (51 percent) will also become more important. On the other hand, traditional channels for employee searches such as the print edition of newspapers (84 percent) or trade magazines (76 percent) will lose importance, as will the employment agency (42 percent) and the online editions of daily and weekly newspapers (36 percent).

Bitkom proposes measures against the lack of IT specialists

Bitkom demands quick and decisive action against the lack of IT specialists. This includes attracting significantly more young people and especially women to study computer science or IT training and reducing the dropout rate at universities. "For years, education politicians have closed their eyes to the demands not only of Bitkom, but also of the entire economy for a school subject of computer science in the canon of subjects. The lack of IT experts on the job market is the quid pro quo," said Berg. "We now need IT in schools across the country." At the same time, new educational opportunities should be expanded that quickly convey up-to-date knowledge and lead, for example, to nanodegrees or microcertificates. And further IT training in companies must be promoted, for example through tax incentives.  

As a short-term measure, Bitkom recommends allowing flexibility in labour law, for example by creating the possibility for IT specialists to freely allocate their working hours within the framework of a maximum weekly working time. In addition, the digital sector should urgently be exempted from the new provisions of the Temporary Employment Act. This law has led to companies having less access to external specialists or having to replace external teams in ongoing projects. One in six companies (17 percent) says that the amendment to the temporary employment law has further aggravated their own problem with specialists. And 16 percent state that they have not succeeded in hiring freelancers or freelancers on a permanent basis. "The new regulations in the temporary employment law were intended to prevent wage dumping and precarious employment relationships. But what may suit slaughterhouses and hairdressing salons with low wages is a burden on highly qualified and well-paid IT freelancers, and can be disastrous for their customers".


Methodology: On behalf of Bitkom, Bitkom Research interviewed 856 managing directors and human resources managers of companies with 3 or more employees from all sectors (excluding agriculture and the public sector). The survey is representative for the overall economy in Germany.