Australia’s technology workforce continues to grow faster than other white-collar industries, the 2020 Digital Pulse Report revealed last week.

Released on Thursday, the annual report prepared for ACS by Deloitte Access, provided a detailed examination of digital workforce trends, aimed at informing public debate about this important area of our economy.

The report found Australian Gross Domestic Product was 6.5% larger in 2019 thanks to the productivity benefits of digital technology. In dollar terms, the gain was $126b.

ACS Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Johnson flagged the IT sector’s employment growth as key driver for Australia’s economy as it recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Governments extending programs to enhancing the digital infrastructure of Australian small businesses will be an important way to save current jobs and create new jobs in the next 12 months,” said Mr Johnson.

“Supporting digital infrastructure in this area of our economy will provide immediate productivity and efficiency dividends.

“Doubling down on digital technologies will be the best way to reinvent business models and adapt to living with a suppressed COVID-19.”

The report explored six key areas to improve the performance and competitiveness of Australia’s digital economy and workforce, including workforce upskilling and reskilling , boosting investment in digital capacity and providing certainty for research and development commitments.

“What’s missing in the national conversation about reskilling Australia is incentivising the upskilling of the existing workforce. There is much investment in retraining displaced workers, and rightly so,” continued Mr Johnson.

“Growth in GDP per capita however comes from lifting the productivity of our current workforce. Subsidies designed to encourage existing technology workers to upskill their capabilities and be able to immediately uplift the productivity of their current employers, needs to be part of the mix.

“Reskilling in technology knowledge and skills may offer a wage premium of around $10,348 per year, thus the increased demand for technology workers represents a real opportunity for professionals from a range of other occupations to grow their incomes.”

Also examined were shaping the digital landscape through e-invoicing, enhancing the tax treatment of startup employee share schemes and improving the measurement of the ICT sector’s contribution to the Australian economy.

The report also dedicated a chapter on how businesses have responded to the COVID-19 crisis with an assessment of its potential long term legacy. Previous research shows, on average, highly digitally engaged businesses earn 60% more revenue per employee and grow 28% faster than businesses with poor digital engagement.

Despite the industry’s growth, the report found Australia’s International competitiveness has declined across 24 indicators covering workforce, business use, consumer uptake, government use and regulatory landscape and aggregate sector-based indicators.

The 2020 assessment of international competitiveness comes two years after Deloitte Access Economics previously benchmarked the sector for Digital Pulse. Overall, Australia has declined one rank on average over two years. This is primarily due to other countries improving their performance at a greater rate, as opposed to Australia falling behind on its progress.

The full 2020 Digital Pulse report can be downloaded from the ACS website.