Canberra Contractors Are Finally Seeing A Pay Rise

Canberra Contractors Are Finally Seeing A Pay Rise

Cuts in government spending and a Federal election meant that 2010 wasn’t a banner year for IT salaries in Canberra. However, new contractor salary data suggests the situation is slowly improving in our national capital.

Picture by Roberto Arias

We included Canberra in our analysis of where the best-paying IT jobs are earlier in the year. However, Canberra is a relatively unusual market. It has a much larger percentage of government IT jobs than anywhere else, reflecting government's de facto status as the biggest industry in the ACT. Moves in recent years to make technology spending more efficient also mean it has a very high percentage of contract IT workers, though this is gradually being reduced in the wake of the Gershon Review which recommended converting more contractors into permanent roles.

Recruitment firm Peoplebank regularly tracks the availability of contract roles in Canberra via its Peoplebank/Intermedium index. Its latest data suggests that after a slow 2010, the first quarter of 2011 saw an increase in contractor hiring, the first time that has happened in several years. More importantly for IT worker wallets, contractor pay rates are also going up.

Peoplebank CEO Peter Acheson attributes that improvement to a combination of factors:

Rising demand for skilled ICT workers is due to the commencement of a number of projects, including IT commitments outlined in the 2010 Budget, as well as separate projects that had been delayed due to the extended period of political uncertainty associated with the Federal election.

Demand is particularly strong for project managers, business analysts, developers and testers. Despite that, variability appears to be the norm over the long-term, so anyone working in IT in the ACT should be used to troughs and dips. The chart below shows the hiring patterns for IT contractors in Canberra over the last seven years in terms of number of vacancies at any given point in time:

Another factor that has altered contract durations. Most government IT contracts typically end on June 30, so the length of hire is often a function of when the staff member commences. However, the shift towards offering permanent positions means that when contract roles are offered, the contract period is becoming shorter, Peoplebank found.

Are you an IT contractor based in the ACT? Is life better in 2011? Tell us your experience in the comments.

Peoplebank Intermedium

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


  • I am a Network Engineer in Canberra, and have seen my wage increase from $67/hr in 2009, to $79/hr in 2010 and just signed on at the same place for $90/hr. So yes, times are getting better all due to Gershon.

    Gershon has the opposite intended affect, all that happened is that ICT workers left Canberra instead of taking up permanent ICT opportunities. The vast majority of Canberra ICT workers were only intending to be in Canberra for 2-3 years, then go back home after making $90/hr and back into a $75k/year perm job. Great deposit maker.

    Regardless, all that happened was these people left early, leaving the vacancies and ultimately increased rates to us permanent Canberrans.

    So thanks, Gershon!

  • I was contracting during the Gershon review last year, it was the scariest part of my career. Being told that you might not have a job in a week every couple of months was not fun. But luckily since then I have been hired permanently and my pay has gone up.
    2011 is looking very promising with even more positions opening up.

  • The use of the word ‘finally’ in the headline here makes it sound like contractors have been doing it tough up until now in Canberra. Good one.

    • Tell me about it. Have a friend who contracts in ACT, just went from $101,000 per/y to $144,000. Easiest money made for spinning on a chair all day so I’m told!

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