Where to work in tech around the world

"Show me the tech money!"
19 February 2024

Is a high tech salary still guaranteed?

• Where in the world can you get the highest tech salary?
• Why are some traditional bastions of high salary tech roles falling by the wayside?
• Australia – a case study of innovation.

Despite job shortage squeezes, a tech salary is highly sought because, at the risk of seeming grubby, tech saaries are traditionally high compared to salaries in “non-tech” industries. In the US, big tech means big money and that’s partly what keeps computer science classes populated. Luckily, global demand for engineers isn’t dropping, according to staffing service firm Human Resocia.

The tech industry has traditionally meant a high salary, to attract excellence and corporate edge.

But in Japan, for instance,  IT engineers were only paid, on average, $36,061 in 2023. That figure sees Japan drop six places in worldwide rankings and come in at 26 out of 72 companies for best tech sector salary.

“Even disregarding the effects of a weak yen, (Japan’s) competitiveness is receding when looking at salaries,” a member of the research team said. “There are concerns that Japan is becoming a less attractive destination.”

Switzerland was top of the charts, with an average salary of $102,839 followed by the US where the average tech sector salary is $92,378.

Pay for IT workers in Japan rose only 0.4% compared to the last year, which is a miniscule amount – especially when the US saw growth of 3.6% and China jumped 16.9%.

The number of people employed in IT across 109 countries analyzed by Human Resocia rose by an estimated 26.81 million, up 13.3% from the previous year. The largest growth happened in the US, where 4.45 million people were added to the workforce.

India’s IT workforce grew by 3.34 million people and China 3.28 million. Despite unfavorable wages, Japan’s staff growth was ranked 4th, increasing by 1.44 million.

Japan, alongside the UK, entered a recession last week. Although previously a giant in the technology sector, it has been flagging.

That doesn’t mean the government isn’t trying. It plans to spend as much as ¥45 billion ($300 million) to back a research group developing chip technology – another step in a national push to catch up in semiconductor manufacturing.

Of course, Japan isn’t so much establishing ground in the chip market as reclaiming it. In 1988, Japanese firms accounted for 51% of chip sales worldwide. So what went wrong? Does the hardly competitive salary mean that the best Japanese engineers are leaving the country and putting their skills towards technological advance elsewhere?

Australian tech sector hard to enter

For years now Australia has been unable to train enough IT professionals to fill local requirements. Visas for skilled workers from offshore have been the solution so far, but the process is about to change. Salaries in Australia can't keep tech talent onshore.

By design, getting a work visa for Australia is complicated: you have to convince an “assessing authority” you’ve got the educational achievements and skills that Australia needs. For tech sector professionals, only one organization is a certified assessor – the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The process for applicants hoping to work in the technology sector involves filling in a PDF. Sounds simple, but according to the ACS chief growth officer, Siobhan O’Sullivan, it results in 80% of applications arriving in an unfit state to be assessed.

The complexity of the form – particularly tricky for those who don’t speak English as a first language – means that often, they’re submitted incomplete, omitting important documents or information.

More than half of applicants submit two forms, because another requirement to score a visa is to demonstrate that skills match the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). More than 20 such ANZSCO codes apply to tech jobs. Applicants therefore submit multiple applications in the hope their skills match at least one ANZSCO code.

In an effort to make the application process simpler, O’Sullivan said it should offer an experience akin to that of consumer-facing apps like food delivery services. That would also cut down the ACS processing time; the organization finds itself with thousands of unprocessed applications and a response time of up to 14 weeks.

Next month, a new, interactive web form will be introduced. Identity documents will be sent to a third party for verification, meaning the ACS will no longer store them. It will also access assessments using an API instead of storing and securing sensitive personal information.

Another major change is that applicants will be able to specify three ANSZCO codes in one application.

All of this comes at a price, though: the cost of an application has more than doubled. Still, the argument is, current applicants are having to fill out multiple forms at around AU$550 ($360) apiece. The new fee, standing at AU$1100 ($720) will thus be cheaper overall.

Australia has emerged as a global technology powerhouse, and despite being affected by global technology layoffs, the country is arguably better off than Japan as a prospect for those looking for a high tech salary right now.