North American developer workforce will shrink, research says


New research shows that more software developer jobs will be created in Asia than in North America by 2010.

The worldwide software developer population is expected to grow to 19.5 million by 2010 from 14.5 million in 2007, but North America will account for only 18 percent of those jobs in 2010, down from 23 percent today, according to statistics from Evans Data Corp. presented at a conference the research firm is hosting Tuesday in Redwood City, California.

While the North American share of the developer work force will shrink, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) share will grow to close to 45 percent from 37 percent today. The share of developers from Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) will slip to 30 percent from 35 percent and the share from Latin America will remain flat at 6 percent.

The growth rate for the developer population in APAC over the next three to five years is expected to be 15 percent, 8 percent to 10 percent in EMEA, but only 3 percent to 4 percent in North America.

Although the numbers further document the trend of software development work shifting away from countries such as the U.S., there are still elements of software development that are strongest in the U.S., said John Andrews, president and chief operating officer of Evans Data.

For instance, use of the Ajax (asynchronous JavaScript XML) programming language for Web site application development is greater in the U.S. than abroad, Andrews said. Although there are more Ajax developers in China and other countries in APAC, developers in the U.S. actually take greater advantage of Ajax than those in APAC.

“There is a much more sophisticated developer in the U.S. versus the sophistication of the developers in those emerging countries, simply because of experience,” he said. “Ajax is a deep development tool, you can either go shallow or you can go deep. The tendency in North America is to go deeper and leverage its full capabilities.”

IBM Corp. is urging the academic community to promote software development as a field of study and a career, said Kathy Mandelstein, director of worldwide developer marketing and developer relations. Faculty in computer science departments are reporting a decline in enrollment in the last two years, Mandelstein said. IBM tells faculty that higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs for software architects are growing in the U.S. even though companies then shift code development and testing to other regions.

Most of the traffic to the Web site, a search engine for software code developers, still comes from the U.S., said Laura Merling, vice president of business development for Krugle Inc. But close behind is traffic from India, Germany and Russia.

Still, fundamental software development creating new applications is still done mostly in the U.S.

“A lot of the ideas come from here and a lot of people internationally come to the U.S.,” Merling said. “All the commercial application product vendors are still primarily in the U.S.”


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