4. The trends in labour market demands for digital professionals: Overview and dynamics across countries in online job postings

Digital occupations are diverse and range from jobs involving routine tasks, such as web maintenance, to more complex tasks like software development. The universe of digital occupation is large and constantly expanding with new jobs.

This chapter focuses on a selection of digital occupations to investigate the trends in the demand for digital professionals across a varied range of countries. The digital occupations analysed in this chapter have been selected for their importance in the digital transition but also with an eye to cover a broad and diverse spectrum of roles that have been affected by digitalisation in various sectors. The selection of occupations was undertaken by the OECD in collaboration with Randstad Research Italy,1 who offered valuable feedback in the identification of the digital professions analysed herein (see Box 4.1).

Figure 4.1 presents the digital occupations under examination in this chapter. To ease comparison and in order to simplify visualisation across countries, these are grouped into four broad categories:

  1. 1. Computer and data analysts / administrators,

  2. 2. Software developers, programmers and engineers,

  3. 3. ICT technicians and data entry clerks, and

  4. 4. ICT and HR managers / marketing specialists

The group of computer and data analysts / administrators, includes occupations such as system analysts or database administrators. System analysts “conduct research, analyse and evaluate client information technology requirements, procedures or problems, and develop and implement proposals, recommendations, and plans to improve current or future information systems” (ILO, 2016[1]). Database designers and administrators, instead, “design, develop, control, maintain and support the optimal performance and security of databases” (ILO, 2016[1]).

The group of software developers, programmers, and engineers comprises occupations such as UI/UX designers/developers2 who “develop and implement websites, web applications, application databases, and interactive web interfaces. [They also] Evaluate code to ensure that it is properly structured, meets industry standards, and is compatible with browsers and devices. Optimize website performance, scalability, and server-side code and processes (…)” (US Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2010[2]). Another example is the case of software developers, who “research, analyse and evaluate requirements for existing or new software applications and operating systems, and design, develop, test and maintain software solutions to meet these requirements” (ILO, 2016[1]).

The third group comprises ICT technicians and data entry clerks. Occupations in this group typically require lower skills than in the rest of groups.3 Data entry clerks “enter coded, statistical, financial and other numerical data into electronic equipment, computerized databases, spreadsheets or other data repositories using a keyboard, mouse, or optical scanner, speech recognition software or other data entry tools. They enter data into mechanical and electronic devices to perform mathematical calculations” (ILO, 2016[1]). Other occupations in this group are computer operators4 and ICT operations technicians.5 Those latter, for instance, are technicians that “support the day-to-day processing, operation and monitoring of information and communications technology systems, peripherals, hardware, software and related computer equipment to ensure optimal performance and identify any problems” (ILO, 2016[1]).

The fourth and last group examined in this chapter pools together ICT and HR managers / marketing specialists. This group includes occupations such as ICT service managers, who “plan, direct and co-ordinate the acquisition, development, maintenance and use of computer and telecommunication systems, either as the manager of a department or as the general manager of an enterprise or organisation that does not have a hierarchy of managers”.

The digital occupations identified in this chapter represent a significant share of the labour market demand that appears online. On average, the selected digital occupations represent over 6% of total OJPs in Canada, more than 7% in the US, and close to 11% in the United Kingdom and Singapore (Figure 4.2).6 In EU countries, the digital occupations selected for the analysis range from 7% of the total OJPs in France to 9% in Belgium, 10% in Germany, 11% in the Netherlands, and close to 12% in Italy and Spain.7

Going deeper in the disaggregation of the results, Figure 4.3 presents the relative prevalence of each of the four broad occupational categories out of the total OJPs selected in this report (Figure 4.1 provided more detail on this classification).

Out of the selected digital occupations, software developers, programmers and engineers are the most prevalent across OJPs in countries. In the United Kingdom, for instance, approximately to 2 in every 3 online job postings for digital professionals (within the selected digital occupations for this study) are seeking software developers and programmers. In the United States the share of OJPs for software developers and engineers is 56% of the total postings related to digital professionals while in Spain, Canada and Singapore those shares are close to 50% of the total OJPs for digital jobs.

In Germany and France, the share of OJPS for software developers and programmers are slightly lower than in above mentioned countries, but still considerable (37% and 36%, respectively).

Computer and data analysts/administrators are also relatively numerous across OJPs, representing over 1 in every 5 of the selected digital occupations.8

ICT technicians and data entry clerks, instead, represent a smaller fraction of overall OJPs in all countries. In fact, these are below 20% for all analysed countries, ranging from 7% in Germany or 9% in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain to around 15-16% in Canada, Italy and France.

Finally, ICT and HR managers / marketing specialists show the lowest prevalence over the total OJPs for the selected occupations in the United Kingdom (5%), whereas they are much more prominent in Belgium (23%) or in Germany and Italy (21%). This group includes ICT services managers, human resource managers and advertising and marketing professionals.9

This section describes the evolution of the OJPs for the selected digital occupations over time. Figure 4.4 shows the increase/decrease in the publication of job postings online for each occupations and since the first year for which data is available by using the volumes of OJPs in the initial year as a benchmark (i.e. as an index with value 100).

Generally, results in this section show the significant increase in the volume of online job postings published for most digital occupations but also the important negative impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had across most labour markets and, as a consequence, on some digital professions.

Focusing on the occupations where demand has increased, results below show that postings for data engineers and data scientists in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States experienced a striking growth in the past few years. Conversely, data for Belgium, Germany or the Netherlands show a more mixed scenario, where the demand for some digital occupations has been heavily impacted during the pandemic years and has not yet fully recovered as of the end of 2021. In the case of EU countries, it is important to notice that OJPs time series only start in 2018 (with the exception of Italy in 2014) and that virtually all digital occupations in EU countries had been trending significantly upwards in pre-pandemic years. As the COVID-19 crisis struck, this implied a heavy correction in the demand for most occupations that has not yet been fully reabsorbed at the time of writing this report.

In a world that is reliant on interconnected devices and where large amounts of sensitive data are collected, stored and used to improve decision making, cyber threats and data breaches pose significant risks for governments and businesses. In order to reduce vulnerability to cyberattacks, organisations are increasingly investing in cybersecurity and IT risk management. This is reflected in the results looking at the evolution of the demand for cybersecurity professionals.

In the United States, Canada and Singapore, the online job postings for cyber / information security engineers / architects have, in fact, trended up steadily. The number of postings in this category has been steadily growing since 2012 and only declined in 2020, in coincidence with the COVID-19 crisis. In 2021, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has started increasing again and volumes of OJPs are back at their highest values (176 000 new online postings for cyber / information security engineers / architects in the United States). A similar trend can be observed in the United Kingdom where OJPs for cyber / information security engineers / architects in the United Kingdom are in 2021 nearly four times higher than in 2012 (from 10 600 to nearly 40 000).

OJPs for data mining analysts have also increased strikingly in all countries for which information is available and, especially, in Singapore (from slightly above 300 posting-s in 2012 to nearly 12 000 in 2021). Likewise, growth in the United States for data mining analysts has been significant with the only exception of the year 2020 (at the beginning of the pandemic) while the volume of postings in 2021 is at its record levels of 94 000 per year.

These results suggest that, as the Digital Revolution has certainly triggered an increasing availability of data and that professionals such as data mining analysts have also become increasingly important for businesses as their skills (analysing large data sets to identify patterns, trends, using statistical techniques and programming software) are becoming of paramount importance for employers to manage production and plan strategically all types of activities from marketing to logistics and distribution.

In EU countries, the availability of OJPs information starts in 2018 (with the exception of Italy, where data starts in 2014). Hence, pre-pandemic information is only available for the years 2018 and 2019, while afterwards statistics on OJPs have been heavily affected – as expected – by the strong declines in economic activity experienced by all economic sectors. That being said, even during the pandemic period, some digital occupations have experienced increased demand relative to the pre-pandemic period.

For instance, in Italy and France, job postings for database and network professionals have increased steadily since the start of the available time series. In Italy, in particular, the number of OJPs increased nearly 9 times between 2014 and 2021, although it is worth noting that the initial postings were relatively few (nearly 240). In France, online vacancies for database and network professionals more than doubled in 2021 (relative to 2018).

Conversely, for Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, online postings for those professionals reached their peak in 2019 to then decline as the COVID-19 crisis hit. As of now, the levels of OJPs for those professionals have not yet recovered significantly but in the longer run, an increase in the demand is expected in most of those occupations. This trend is also observed for online vacancies for system analysts and database designers and administrators, where postings increased in the pre-crisis period between 2018 and 2019, but then declined coinciding with the advent of the COVID-19 crisis.

In the universe of digital occupations, software developers, programmers and engineers have experienced some of the most notable growth rates. In Canada, for instance, the number of job postings published online for UI / UX designers / developers in 2021 was more than three time larger than in 2012 (growing from 760 to 2 500 postings). Similarly, in the United Kingdom, online postings for UI / UX designers / developers in 2021 reached their maximum peak of close to 15 000. In the United States, the growth in online vacancies for UI / UX designers / developers was very significant, especially between 2017 and 2019, a period of sustained growth that was only interrupted in 2020 with the COVID-19 crisis. However, in 2021, as in other countries, the number of postings for UI / UX designers / developers started mounting again and are now close to the highest figure per year that was reached before the pandemic in 2019, with a total of 70 800 postings.

Some of these trends can be observed also in EU countries. In Belgium, for instance, online vacancies for web and multimedia developers doubled between 2018 and 2019 (increasing from around 4 100 to 7 700) but fell considerably during 2020 and, even more so, in 2021 during the pandemic years. More broadly, with the exception of France, postings for software developers and programmers and electronic engineers in the analysed EU countries are still far from the peak levels recorded in 2019. In the Netherlands and Italy, for instance, OJPs for electronics engineers, software developers, web and multimedia developers and applications programmers showed a sharp increase in 2019 to then decline in 2020 and 2021 with signs of a slight recovery in 2021 in the Dutch case.

Among digital occupations, ICT technicians provide support for the deployment and maintenance of computer infrastructure and web technology. They also contribute to the diagnosis and resolution of technical problems.

While some of the tasks of these jobs may be more routine-intensive than those of other digital occupations, they are still essentials for ICT infrastructures to work properly. Similarly, as countries and firms transit towards a fully digital environment, the work of data entry clerks may be particularly important in sectors that are still in the process of digitalising, despite a potentially negative labour market outlook in the future due to the low skilled nature of these jobs.10

As a confirmation of the key role of some of these professionals during the years of the digital transformation, the analysis of online job postings for data entry clerks shows that the demand for them has increased significantly in the United States (from 25 000 in 2012 to almost 68 000 in 2021). In Canada, OJPs for data entry clerks have also followed, overall, an increasing trend since 2012 to then decrease with the advent of the pandemic in 2020 and recover to roughly pre-pandemic levels in 2021. In the United Kingdom, instead, vacancies for data entry clerks peaked in 2017 before declining yearly up until 2020. However, in 2021, postings more than doubled relative to the initial year of the pandemic showing that there is still demand for workers supporting the digitalisation of analogic processes as in the case of data entry clerks.

Similar trends are observed in some EU countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium, for instance, OJPs for data entry clerks have been consistently above the 2018 level and peaked in 2020. In the Netherlands, postings for data entry clerks increased annually since 2018, with the exception of 2020, and are in 2021 at their highest level (around 1 400).

In other EU countries, however, the COVID-19 crisis seems to have had a stronger negative impact on these jobs with OJPs following an inverted-U pattern: a strong growth before the pandemic and a correction during the years of the crisis. For example, in Spain and Germany, postings for data entry clerks increased in between 2018 and 2019, while they experienced a strong decline during 2020 and have not recovered the pre-crisis levels in 2021. In Germany, for instance, a peak of 7 200 OJPs was reached in 2019, and the 2021 levels are at 4 400.

Vacancies for high-skilled digital professionals, such as Chief Information Officers / directors of IT, human resources managers, and marketing specialists have increased significantly in the four Anglophone countries under study. For Canada, this is particularly the case for marketing specialists, whose number of job postings has increase more than 4 times since 2012, from around 1900 to 8 600 in 2021. For the United Kingdom and the United States, postings for marketing specialists exhibit a strong growth, though the pattern has been rather volatile across years. In the United States, for instance, postings for marketing specialists declined during the pandemic in 2020 (when postings amounted to less than 65 000) before increasing very strongly to reach over 126 000 postings in 2021. For the United Kingdom, vacancies for marketing specialists declined since 2017, but the levels in 2021 picked up again significantly (8 600 postings). In Singapore, job postings related to Chief Information Officer / director of IT have also quadrupled compared to 2012 levels, although it is worth noting that the starting levels were below 200.

In the European countries analysed, online vacancies for these high-skilled occupations have followed relatively similar dynamics across countries, peaking in 2019 and, afterwards, declining in 2021, possibly due to the strong impact of the pandemic on economic activity. In 2019, the growth for OJPs concerning ICT service managers was particularly high in Italy, where the volume of OJPs in 2019 (3 100) was more than five times that of 2014 (640). Since then, however, postings have declined during the years of the pandemic and are yet to recover. In Germany, new postings for ICT services managers have instead declined since 2018, moving from around well above 21 000 postings in 2018 to around 15 200 in 2021.

In addition to the occupations that have been analysed above for the full cross-section of countries in this report, this section examines and identifies trends in a wider range of digital occupations by taking the United States as a case study, a country that is usually considered at the forefront of technological innovation and adoption. This section is useful as the growth in some of the occupations analysed herein has been very significant and these dynamics are, therefore, worth to be highlighted separately.

Results in this section are presented for occupations belonging to the occupational group of “computer and mathematical occupations (SOC-15) and for the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic in order to show the magnitude of those longer-run dynamics when unaffected by the unprecedented shock in pandemic years.

As this section is mostly concerned with medium to long term trends, Table 4.1 presents the top digital occupations (in SOC-15) ranked by the growth in the number of online job postings in between 2012 and 2019 excluding, therefore, the downturn during the years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results show that data scientists and data engineers have been experiencing a significative growth in the volume of new vacancies published online, signalling the increase in their demand in the US labour market. OJPs for data scientists increased, for instance, by more than 40 times going from merely 1 260 postings in 2012 to over 50 000 in 2021. A similar extraordinary growth is also registered for OJPs for data engineers which went from roughly 1 500 in 2012 to close to over 47 000 in 2021.11

The growing importance and relevance of these occupations lies in the central role they play in the collection and analysis of data used in a variety of different sectors that are nowadays relying on interconnected devices and where large flows of data are used to reduce mistakes in production, oversee different stages of production and minimise costs by automatising processes. Data scientists, for instance, are “employed to analyse and interpret complex digital data, such as the usage statistics of a website, especially in order to assist a business in its decision-making” (Oxford Languages, n.d.[3]) while data engineers, “administer, test, and implement computer databases, applying knowledge of database management systems. Co-ordinate changes to computer databases. May plan, co-ordinate, and implement security measures to safeguard computer databases” (US Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2010[2]).

While the figures for data scientists and data engineers are certainly striking, it is important to read them with some caution as the volumes of job postings in the initial year may be an underestimation of the true labour market demand as online job portals (from which the presented information comes from) were still relatively new “market places” and some demand may have been channelled through more traditional advertisements. The sharp increases in the demand for these professionals in recent years, however, is warranted and the information coming from OJPs clearly identifies a booming trend that has been reshaping the IT and digital sector.

Table 4.1 and Figure 4.5 also show that other occupations have been growing very rapidly with significant increases in the volume of job postings published online. The demand for business intelligence architects / developers, for instance, has been increasing rapidly since 2012. Similar to data engineers, business intelligence architects / developers are key to businesses, as they leverage software and services to transform data into actionable insights that can inform an organisation’s strategic and tactical business decisions. Postings for this occupation have almost tripled12 by 2021 relative to 2012, as businesses have become increasingly aware of the need to use their data effectively for business planning and strategical decisions.

In a context where businesses are increasingly using data for decision-making and optimisation of processes, postings for database architects have also followed a similar trend, having nearly doubled in relation to their initial levels. The tasks of database architects vary, including the design of strategies for the use and structure of enterprise databases, multidimensional networks and warehouse systems, as well as modelling, designing and constructing large databases or optimising models for infrastructure and workflow.

Mobile applications developers – who are in charge to create, programme, test and maintain apps and mobile platforms – are also in very high demand. Table 4.1 shows that online job postings for this occupation have more than doubled in the last nine years and this trend may continue in the future as mobile applications are becoming a standard mean to deliver services in virtually all sectors of economic activity, from entertainment to banking, education and retail.

Among the fastest growing digital occupations, the role of technology consultants (sometimes referred to as innovation or technology brokers) has also been on the rise. As the digital transition is requiring firms to transform digitally and new roles such as those of technology consultants are emerging, helping businesses to restructure their activities. Technology Consultant work with clients to help them transform the way they use technology where “traditionally, these transformations have been geared towards improving business processes, reducing costs, maximising use of tech opportunities, and more. Today, they encompass (…) more – from digital strategy to technology change projects” (PwC, n.d.[4]). Results from online job postings (Figure 4.5) indicate that vacancies for technology consultants have been on a significant rise, with over 46 000 postings in 2021, almost three times larger than the levels of 2012.

Online job postings for data warehousing specialists have also more than doubled in the last few years, increasing from 16 000 in 2012 to almost 32 000 in 2021. Some of their tasks include the development of processes and procedures for data management within an organisation, or creating software applications for data storage and management. Given the growing storage of data, their task is crucial in making procedures more efficient.

Interestingly, online job postings for search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists have also increased substantially since 2012, from 4 800 to close to 21 000 in 2021. SEO specialists analyse a client’s website and carries out any changes that may be needed for its optimisation in search engines. Their role is paramount in the current environment where business positioning has gained momentum.

Along with the digital occupations that have been booming in recent years, the demand for other roles within the digital economy has instead remained relatively stable, or even declined. It is hence worth analysing also those roles as stable or declining trends may reveal longer-run dynamics.

Table 4.2 lists the growth of this smaller set of occupations within SOC group of “computer and mathematical occupations” between 2012 and 2019 while Figure 4.6 shows the detailed evolution year-by-year. Among digital occupations, webmaster/ administrators are the only ones showing a mild decline in the volume of job postings relative to the initial year (-17%) though, in recent years, the demand for them has started picking up again. Other occupations, and in particular telecommunications engineering specialists have also seen only modest increases in the volume of new job postings over time, possibly pointing to a weakening demand for those professionals.

Network administrators are in charge of keeping the organisation’s network up to date and operating as intended. Systems administrators undertake similar tasks, but they work more directly with computer software (e.g. installation, maintenance or data recovery). The analysis of OJPs for network / systems administrators shows a rather volatile pattern between 2012 and 2017. After 2017 and up until 2019, postings instead increased steadily, before being negatively hit in 2020 with the advent of the pandemic. In 2021, postings show some signs of recovery, with levels being slightly higher than those registered in 2020. This limited growth is also highlighted in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, developed in 2022 by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (2022[5]), who project postings related to this occupation to grow 5% in 2020-30, slower than the average for all occupations.

Finally, online vacancies for computer programmers, after having declined between 2012 and 2017, have started to increase significantly pointing to potential labour market bottlenecks in the near future if such demand is not met by workers with adequate skills to fill the new positions.


[1] ILO (2016), Definitions of Major Groups, Sub-Major Groups, Minor Groups and Unit Groups, https://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/stat/isco/docs/groupdefn08.pdf.

[6] OECD (2021), OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5a700c4b-en.

[3] Oxford Languages (n.d.), Oxford Languages, https://languages.oup.com/.

[4] PwC (n.d.), Technology Consultants: What do they do? And how ‘tech’ do you need to be?, https://www.pwc.com.au/careers/blog/technology-consultants.html.

[7] Randstad Research Italy (n.d.), Randstad Research Italy, https://research.randstad.it/.

[5] US Bureau of Labour Statistics (2022), Occupational Outlook Handbook, Network and Computer Systems Administrators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm.

[2] US Bureau of Labour Statistics (2010), Standard Occupational Classification, https://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/#classification.


← 1. Randstad Research Italy (RRI) (n.d.[7]) is a research centre of the Randstad group, born in 2019. The institute undertakes a number of qualitative and quantitative surveys, case studies and sector studies, analysing the supply and demand in the labour market and the future skills needs.

← 2. These fall under the six-digit SOC category of web developers. This latter is also the corresponding occupation for EU countries where, due to the more aggregated occupational taxonomy, information on UI/UX designers/developers cannot be directly extracted, but more broadly that related to web developers.

← 3. In fact, the EU occupations within this group belong to the ISCO (one-digit) groups 3 and 4, and to EGB (two-digit) groups 43 (this is the case for two out of the three occupations within this group).

← 4. In the Anglophone countries’ taxonomy.

← 5. In EU countries’ taxonomy.

← 6. These shares should not be interpreted as the weight of digital occupations in the labour market, as it is just a fraction of those (20 for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States; 17 for Singapore; and 14 for EU countries) that are under study.

← 7. Annex 4.A provides more detail in the levels of OJPs for each of the ten countries analysed.

← 8. The lowest shares for this occupational group are in Italy (21%), and Canada, Singapore and Spain (22%). On the other hand, in France and Germany this occupational group is relatively more important, as it represents 30% and 35% of the total selected digital OJPs, respectively.

← 9. Notice that differences in the results across EU and Anglophone countries may be partly driven by the different occupational classifications used in the two sets of countries which are likely to affect results particularly in occupational groups with fewer sub-categories.

← 10. As noted in the OECD’s Employment Outlook 2021 (OECD, 2021[6]) employment in several routine and low-skilled occupations, as is the case for data entry clerks, “is expected to decline in the short term and to further deteriorate in the long-run”.

← 11. In the United Kingdom, the increase in OJPs for data scientists has also been strong, going from merely 179 postings in the initial year of observation to more than 11 000 new postings in 2017, a figure that is 60 times larger in the time span of only 5 years. After then, postings declined but have lately recovered, being back again at levels close to 11 000 in 2021. More details on the evolution of OJPs for data scientists and data engineers for the UK, as well as Canada, can be found in Annex 4.B.

← 12. In particular, their size has increased 2.6 times relative to 2012.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.