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Western Europe is in danger of engineering an economic slump because of its reluctance to tackle the predicted shortfall in skilled networking staff. Worst affected will be firms in the small and medium-sized sector, which are set to become more dependent on IT staff to underpin their business in the expanding electronic economy. "As one of the fastest growing sectors in Europe, the small to medium enterprise requires experienced networking professionals to cultivate their business effectively," said Puni Rajah of market researcher IDC, which carried out the research. "Already the scant supply of network skilled specialists has led to inflated salaries and an increased turnover of these staff. This in turn will have a dramatic effect on operating costs and profit levels for small to medium businesses across Europe." "If the situation is not rectified, Europe could see another economic slump," he warned. Come 2002, IDC predicts, there will be a shortfall of almost 600,000 skilled personnel with enough nous to design, build and manage the networks that are set to form the bedrock of almost every business and government worldwide. Mike Couzens, senior director for marketing and training at Cisco Systems EMEA, said: "If business and government do not act now to ensure they have the right skilled talent capable of running these systems, the situation will only get worse. "The pain is most likely to be felt in regions where the demand is growing at its fastest, most notably Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium where the acceleration of demand growth over supply growth is significant," he said. IDC predicts that the UK will need an additional 82,000 networking professionals, second only to Germany and its quest of finding 188,000 people. IDC's report, The Internet Economy -– An Employment Paradox? was commissioned by networking giant Cisco Systems which is has a track record of warning industry and governments of a skills shortages. ®

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