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fewer IT workers in the future?
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 10:47:43 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Rod Van Meter <rdv () sfc wide ad jp>
Date: March 23, 2009 10:09:23 AM EDT
To: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: fewer IT workers in the future?


For IP, if you wish...

I've never met Phil Neches, but he has three degrees from Caltech and
was the founder of Teradata, the database machine company (back in the
1980s), and sits on the Caltech Board of Trustees -- definitely a pro-IT
guy, and very, very smart.

I find it a curious opinion from someone in his position.  Personally, I
think it's likely he's wrong, but I really have no data to back that up.

One possible wild card is that I'm uncertain exactly how he defines "IT
worker".  If he includes call center workers, as he seems to, he's
likely right, in the long run.  He does talk about some programming jobs
disappearing, but he doesn't quite come out and say that the total
number of programmers and hardware engineers will decline.




"I think we have seen the peak in percentage of the work force employed
in information technology. I have been writing for several years now
that IT as a percent of the work force will decline. I mean this world
wide: outsourcing just moves the jobs and temporarily makes it possible
for workers who are less productive to be competitive due to currency
and standard-of-living arbitrage.

"As the arbitrage declines, those workers are even more vulnerable to
technological obsolescence than their US-based counterparts. Call center
workers can be replaced by voice response systems. Low level application
programmers can be replaced by new software development tools.

"Agriculture, manufacturing, and now IT are characterized by continuing
technology innovation that increases productivity: more output from
fewer hours of labor. For the first 50 years of the IT industry, demand
increase so much faster than productivity that employment increased.
Demand is still increasing, but at a slower rate as the industry finally
has enough capacity to meet the demand and is no longer growing into
unfulfilled demand. Productivity growth remains high, and the balance is
now such that the need for workers is growing slower than the
population, or the economy as a whole."


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