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Technical staff are working longer hours but are becoming less productive.

A report by technology consultancy Meta Group, published this week, paints a picture of technicians struggling to keep up to date with the latest trends in the industry.

It also warns that staff turnover is increasing as technicians become more willing to jump ship, a more serious problem because long lead times involved in complex projects have affected payback from technology investments.

"What surprised us was that spending was not moving faster. Hours worked were far longer, but productivity was far down," said Howard Rubin, a Meta Group researcher on software labour patterns told Reuters.

The survey of 6,000 companies in 28 nations showed that overall information technology spending is likely to be down $100 billion this year, or six per cent down from 1999.

Rubin found that technical staff had to work harder because technology projects have increased in complexity whilst deadlines have become tighter and tighter, forcing workers to put in longer hours in order to cope.

In the US, the average technician's work year increased 36 per to around 45 hours per week, and by 30 percent elsewhere but this didn't necessarily reflect better quality work.

For example the average US software developer produced 6,220 lines of code per year - about one line of finished code every 15 minutes on the job - compared with 9,000 lines in 1999, despite which the incident of bugs also increased.

Technicians are now obliged to scale a steeper learning curve, reducing their productivity, but conversely making them more valuable to alternative employers. Because of this, and the effect on morale from longer working hours, the study found staff turnover rates have increased worldwide.

However the news wasn't all gloomy for techies - salaries in the US were up 6.6 per cent this year, compared to 6.4 per cent last year. This means US organisations can employ nine workers with equivalent jobs in India (something Bill Gates may have more than a passing interest in).

Throughout the world internet based skills, such as Java programming, are particularly prized by employers. ®

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