IT contractors focus on job security

With long-term unemployment rising among IT freelancers, more are placing a premium on job security, according to Giant Group

Long-term unemployment is on the up for UK IT contractors and job-security fears are increasingly on their minds.

The economic gloom and financial turmoil seem to have worried some IT freelancers. Research by contractor services provider Giant Group has found that more freelancers are now ranking job security as a top priority than three months ago: 20 percent, compared to 16 percent in the second quarter of 2008.

Long-term unemployment has increased by 11 percent in the past three months, to 5.3 percent of contractors, compared to 4.7 percent in the second quarter.

Matthew Brown, managing director of Giant Group, said economic gloom is having "a sudden and dramatic impact on contractor joblessness", especially for those who work in financial services.

He said in a statement: "A large number of contractors working in the financial-services sector are having their contracts terminated or not renewed, as banks skim off non-essential staff. This has struck a blow to their confidence and made many of them reconsider their priorities, becoming more pragmatic about their prospects for the next 12 months."

According to the survey, IT contractors are now less interested in prioritising softer issues, such as status, prestige and work/life balance, when choosing a contract, preferring to ramp up their hours instead.

Just over a third of contractors (36 percent) ranked criteria such as work/life balance, responsibility and employer brand as a top priority when choosing a contract in the third quarter of this year, compared to almost half (47 percent) in the second quarter.

There has also been a rise in the number of contractors who say they would prefer a long-term contract over higher per-hour pay — up five percentage points, from 57 percent in the second quarter to 62 percent now.

Eight percent fewer contractors expect to earn more money in 2009, compared to three months ago, although the majority still expect their earnings to grow.