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

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 …

  1. msknight

    Limited effect, I believe

    As Joe acknowledged this is affecting IT staff only in certain areas and only in some sectors. "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." Public sector will see none of this. The grading structures remain the same. The private sector? Lately I've been getting regular e-mails, one this morning proclaimed, "10,000 new infrastructure engineer jobs in London." So I wonder whether this has opened up a chasm of IT staff who now want to work from home while companies want their staff back in the office. Once said engineers bums are back on London office seats, will the wages drop? There's also the effect of IR35 to factor into all this and the people that decided to up sticks and move on.

    So to the title of this debate, I have to answer no. There's just too much at play here.

    I do recall, at the start of the pandemic, standing outside the office for a smoke, passers by our public sector office would give me the thumbs up, a smile, or some other gesture of thanks for still being at my desk, carrying on being one of the small cogs in the big wheels that needed to continue to turn... all the while crossing to the other side of the road to keep social distance! Strange times indeed. And yes, those occasional gestures of recognition did boost my soul, if not my pay packet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Limited effect, I believe

      I started working in the public sector, and the pay wasn't stellar. Despite having successfully fixed my predecessor's thousands of lines of code -- with only one one-line comment and the code stuffed with GOTOs! -- my pay didn't change over the years. But I learnt AWK, as I was working on HP-UX[1].

      But I decided to close my eyes and jump into the private sector. Within two years my pay had doubled. AWK was (is?) a godsend. All but the most complex of those little data transformations, or data extractions became so easy. And for the more complex ones adding bash scripting helped.

      Admittedly I had to get used to more travelling, and more and more working away. My wife wasn't too impressed, but as the years went on we both loved it!!

      Then, over time, as this GUI shit started to become more and more important -- and I hate GUIs -- so I found I couldn't be arsed to update my skills. I have always found AWK to be extremely useful, even now, but I have spent my life running away from Windows. Eventually, coz I was no longer hip, they pushed me out. But it took 20 years, and I earned far more than I needed, so now even though I'm redundant I can afford to never work ever again. I'm enjoying life, moaning at the stupidity of brexit, and just waiting for them to give me my pension.

      Leben ist gut![2]

      [1] A form of Unix.

      [2] Ich lerne Deutsch.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Laugh

    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

    Given the rising costs of living and high taxes these salaries are laughable.

    This kind of money is not enough to do anything serious with it apart from stuffing your ISA and hoping the markets will not crash too bad.

    Then what's left is not much different than living on £20-30k.

    Only way you could make a difference for yourself and your family was to start own business, but successive governments make it more and more difficult.

    The problem is companies like Amazon wants you to work for them rather than doing your own thing. So they lobby to ensure engineers have no choice but to be employees.

    That's how modern slavery is being developed in front of our eyes.

    1. markr555

      Re: Laugh

      Did you really just equate a salary of up to 150k with modern slavery? While they are not monumental, these salary bands are double the national average at a minimum, so calling them laughable is an insult to all the poor buggers who get by on minimum wage, or at best an actual 20-30k. Poor you that you can only stuff your isa through the years. I don't suggest that they are high salaries, but I'm lucky to be in one of the bands that are mentioned and live a dammed sweet life in comparison to the great majority of folks where I live. If you think your salary is too low then why don't you just Jack it in and offer yourself to the highest bidder? Or stop whining and start that bloody business? Entitled much?

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Laugh

        these salary bands are double the national average at a minimum, so calling them laughable is an insult to all the poor buggers who get by on minimum wage, or at best an actual 20-30k

        This mindset that you have is part of the problem. Us vs them. Big IT corporations make billions, avoid paying taxes and even 150k salaries are scraps given the value they get out of the workers. I guess if you make more than average then you have to suck it up and you are not allowed to complain, even if you are clearly being exploited?

        If you think your salary is too low then why don't you just Jack it in and offer yourself to the highest bidder?

        Industry is being gatekeeped - if you didn't like your salary in the past, you could just start your own business, but with lobbied IR35 changes that door is also closing quickly.

        1. markr555

          Re: Laugh

          I don't have an 'I'm lucky to have this job' mindset, I have an 'I'm lucky to be in a position to be able to negotiate a good salary (according to my skills, ability and experience) in a profession that I quite like' mindset. It helps keep me grounded enough such that I don't start to believe that I'm trapped in some sort of indentured servitude when I earn more than 95% of the population. It also helps me to negotiate well with new/existing employers such that I don't feel that I'm underselling my contribution. The way you complain is to leave and get a better job, either pay or conditions, or even both. Or you actually start that business in spite of the IR35 laws, rather than use them as an excuse for inaction and bitching.

        2. Willie T
          Happy

          Re: Laugh

          So "Big IT corporations make billions... 150k salaries are scraps given the value they get out of the workers"? I think the reason you haven't started your own business is you have no clue how business works.

          I work for one of those "Big IT corporations". I am paid a good sum more than 150k. My benefit package is fantastic. This is not to brag, just to say that I know how much my total compensation package (including all overhead) costs my employer. And since my role is working in services where we are billed out by the hour, I also know just how much my employer is profiting from my work. Given the costs they have to assume to keep me working (sales, management, HR) and a reasonable return for investors, I happen to think the whole arrangement is quite fair. Certainly happier than some of my acquaintances who run their own business, work themselves to death, hoping someday it might blossom into something that pays them well enough to retire on.

          To each their own, I'll stick with getting screwed over by my Big IT employer.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Laugh

      Your numbers don't really work, and your conclusions are extreme. If you're in the £100,000 to £150,000 range, you earn a lot more than £30k. It's not just filling up pensions, which those earning £30k will not be able to do so well, but all the extra you have afterward. That is the kind of money many will never get, and I'm guessing you haven't lived on lower wages for a while.

      As for starting your own business, you have options other than contracting. If you open a business that does something other than look for contracting roles, IR35 won't restrict you. Your savings from the higher salary should help ease the start of such a business. I'm not in the UK, so I'll leave the discussion of how restrictive IR35 is to others. You have the freedom to change roles whenever you want, the money to make changes in circumstances easier to handle, and skills which earn you in a high income bracket. Whether or not you feel the large and wealthy employers are paying you enough, you have a lot of power that others don't have and you could use to your benefit.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Laugh

        Most developers earn £40-80k no?

        And any service based business is restricted by IR35.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Laugh

          I don't know as I'm not in the UK. I was using the numbers the article talked about as quoted in your original comment. Even with the lower range, it's still somewhat to significantly more than the £20k-£30k range with which you've equated it.

          IR35 sounds restrictive to contracting roles, but starting a business doesn't just mean taking contract work. If you want to take the risk related to a business, you could make a business that sells products or services in a more general way--as I understand it, if a business buys your service rather than you tailoring your service to their contract, IR35 isn't related. It sounds as if you only plan to start a business in order to take a contract role, which is fine, but then your complaint is squarely on IR35 and not on the level of pay.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Laugh

            I don't know as I'm not in the UK. I was using the numbers the article talked about as quoted in your original comment. Even with the lower range, it's still somewhat to significantly more than the £20k-£30k range with which you've equated it.

            You'll be able to afford some better meals from time to time or maybe move closer to work (which then rent takes away all the difference between e.g. £20k and £40k), maybe get an extra holiday somewhere more remote, but that's pretty much it. You won't have significantly better life.

            IR35 sounds restrictive to contracting roles,

            This is a common misunderstanding. While IR35 was designed to remove competition for a couple of big consultancies, it affects every service based business that supply them for other businesses.

    3. Glen 1

      Re: Laugh

      Context for US readers:

      According to Official Gov Statistics as of 2019:

      The median salary here was £25k before tax

      A salary of ~£50k puts you in the 86th percentile.

      A salary of ~£70k puts you in the 93rd percentile.

      £100k is in the 97th percentile

      £150k is in the 98th percentile

      A friend from Norway tells me that salaries there are twice as much as the UK, but everything is twice as expensive, so it evens out.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No

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

    No they are not. Not me anyway. We had our "bench marking" done and told in line with or even more than what regular 3rd line gets so no pay rise for you. Despite you keeping the business going during the pandemic, remotely. And keeping everyone else connected and working, remotely. Really? When did 3rd line only make £25k?

    Gets annoying after a while.

  4. 4whatitsworth

    25K! Its time to polish your CV my friend. That is appallingly poor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yep, I make around £25K by being self-employed, working from home and doing barely more than 20 hours/week max - obviously, I could make more if I ever get my finger out, but I'm a lazy bugger and like my lie-ins.

      £25k for full-time 40 or even just 37.5 hours/week is definitely appalling/insulting.

  5. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The UK exception

    I'm not sure why UK tech salaries are so low, particularly in a high-costs city like London. They are so low compared to the US (admittedly higher than in France, but that bar is in the gutter).

    I've seen claims that this is caused by immigration of Indian IT workers, but the US see the same immigration from both India and China, so that's not very convincing...

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: The UK exception

      Check this comment then:

      I'm lucky to be in one of the bands that are mentioned and live a dammed sweet life in comparison to the great majority of folks where I live

      Many workers feel "lucky" they get paid more than average and they display crabs in the bucket mentality.

  6. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge
    Coat

    The voice in my head reading the article

    ...switched to cartoon's The Brain (lab mouse from "Animaniacs") when I got to this line: "Today the Register debate. Tomorrow the world[!]" And then went back to "Believe in yourself, and vote YYYESS!!"

    Apologies to actual voice actor Maurice Lamarche. His royalty check for this comment is in my pocket -->

    (If you need a YouTube link, you wouldn't get it anyway.)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would have voted For the proposition had the word "forever" been omitted.

    In the short term, the pandemic has been financial a boon for tech workers. I've gotten double-digit percent raises in each of the past two years; could have gotten even more by job-hopping, but the current place suits me.

    However -- the same technologies that we deployed to maintain business and social function during the pandemic could ultimately be used to replace us with a mix of cheaper foreign labor and AI.

    Could that improve our low-cost replacements' lives? Possibly; but it's more likely that they will toil in yet another digital sweatshop. Meanwhile, we end up fighting each other, Hunger Games style, for the dwindling handful of tech jobs that require skilled hands on site -- while the oversupply of talent vs jobs drives wages downward.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I read the article and all i can say is i have seen an increase in agencies contacting me because they have seen my CV online but not an increase in wages, i work in the education sector as an IT Manager and i reached my salary top end a few years ago and only get cost of living increase for London, i earn just above £30k per year and if i lived alone i would struggle to stay in London, there wouldn't be any luxuries at all after paying for rent, utilities, food and car expenses.

    I worked throughout covid, no breaks, in fact my work load doubled, i single handily created a SharePoint Intranet and learning platform for staff and students to continue to work and learn, while supporting staff at home remotely and often tech support for parents who had tech thrust upon them as the only solution for pupils to carry on learning from home during lock down even though they struggled with computer basics, i answered phone, emails and video conferences daily, into the evenings and even some weekends.

    I approached the school after all the hard work i put in for a pay rise, well deserved i thought, well lets just say not enough obviously...

    so to my first point i have been looking to see if there is new opportunities which there appear to be a few but a lot of them now demand more of the same position for the same money, our skill sets are not appreciated or valued, instead i get the impression we are expendable / replaceable, plenty more tech guys out there to replace you........

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      I hate to say it but education and the nhs are two areas which do not want to pay good salaries to tech staff.

      I know a couple of people who used to do school it and they have said the same as you and then gone back into the private sector.

      The NHS is worse, if you are doctor then they will pay you loads, non clinical well let’s say the local hospital was advertising a couple of years ago for a CCNP qualified network engineer to run Peterborough hospital - salary £35k. At the time I was earning over £10k more than that which isn’t that highly paid in the private sector for the same role.

      Find out what the companies recruiting want, learn the skills and find a company who will take you on and train as well.

  9. flynndean

    I don't understand the victimhood in the comments...

    If you believe you're underpaid (either because you ARE underpaid or you choose to work in a sector that is not in a position to compensate at a level consummate with the wider demand for your skillset) the choice is surely binary? Negotiate or Leave - it's a seller's market and frankly staying put where you're not valued isn't smart. Or perhaps there's another reason for having a moan from a sedentary position?

    If your skillset is relevant and in-demand...you will find very handsomely gainful employment in the tech sector. If (as I encounter regularly) you're not proactively keeping your skillset contemporary and relevant and have let yourself go stale, why should you be valued in the upper echelons? Nobody sensible is paying £200k+ to IT Managers running infrastructure for schools (or any institution for that matter) based around aged, on-prem, off-the-shelf x86 Applications because that stuff isn't valued anymore.

    If you're a (good) Cloud Architect or a Developer with the right languages and referenceability? If you're a leader who has driven demonstrable competitive advantage by being a progressive and grasping the emerging new era and opportunity of Modern Architecture? You're a Rockstar right now!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't understand the victimhood in the comments...

      £200k for an IT manager in a school lol

      I'm retraining myself in Azure, I'd like to be a cloud architect so I'm not letting myself go stale I would just like there to be room for negotiation before I moved on, i chose to work in a school because of what its like to work in this sector, working with students and staff its a friendly and rewarding sector but I'm thinking a change is in order once qualified.

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