Barcelona is one of the most important technological hubs in Europe. The demand of digital professionals has grown by 80% in the last two years, while the supply has risen by 23%, reaching a total of 77,000 professionals.
Barcelona Digital Talent, an initiative promoted by different public and private bodies, such as Mobile World Capital Barcelona, Barcelona Tech City and the City Council, has just published its last report on the status of digital talent: Digital Talent Overview 2020. The first conclusion is the consolidation of Barcelona as a pole of technological talent, with a total of 77,000 specialised professionals, which shows an increase of 14% compared to 2018.
This growth is mainly due to two factors: tech universities, that have contributed with 19% more graduates, and migratory flows, since the collective of professionals coming from other cities increased by 3,600 people in 2019 and now represents 31% of this ecosystem. Most of these professionals come from Madrid, London and Buenos Aires, followed by Sevilla, Sao Paulo, Paris, Valencia, Warsaw, Mexico City, Dublin and Caracas. The field of expertise of this digital talent can vary, going from most professionals working on cybersecurity (38%), to others specialised in big data and app development (34%).
However, the digital talent demand of Barcelona keeps growing bigger and faster than the supply, since it increased by 29% on 2019 and has reached an 80% over the last two years. The gap is more obvious when comparing the lack of digital profiles to other sectors of activity. Even though there are 36 applications per job offer in Barcelona on average, the number reduces to 15 when it comes to big data job offers, and it goes below 7 for cybersecurity positions. On the other hand, web development is the area with a bigger demand while artificial intelligence and Internet of Things are the most demanded positions amongst digital professionals.
The lack of parity in this field also stands out. The women in digital positions represent only 26.5%, slightly above the European average (25.1%) but far from gender equality. Only the field of usability (UX/UI) shows gender balance, with 51% of women, while the proportion of women in big data lowers to 28%, and the women working on cybersecurity only represent 15%. Programs such as LIDERA and initiatives like Cibernarium of Barcelona Activa, as well as international associations such as Women Who Code – with the headquarters in Barcelona – work to balance these proportions.
A diverse digital ecosystem
The increase in the demand of digital profiles in Barcelona answers to the needs of a wide variety of companies, which shows the diversity and richness of this ecosystem. IT consultants, global digital service centres of multinationals based in Barcelona, research centres and the so-called scale-ups (start-ups that keep expanding thanks to high growth over several years) are the companies that hire the most digital talent in Barcelona.
In terms of field of activity, diversity can be also seen: 56% of technology companies work in industries other than IT, such as the media (11%), business services (10%), manufacturing (8%) and finance (6%).
However, if we focus on the size of the companies that define the digital ecosystem of the city, there’s a clear dominant profile. Small and medium companies, with 2 to 50 employees, represent 47% of the whole. Next, there are the ones with 50-200 employees, representing 20%, and finally there are the multinationals, with more than 5,000 employees, with 10%.
When it comes to wages, Barcelona appears to be very competitive. The annual gross salary for digital professionals in the Catalan capital stays around 37,500€, over the average salary in Barcelona (30,807€) but far from other tech hubs competing for global talent, such as London, with an average salary of over 73,000€. Taking the cost of living into consideration, however, Barcelona offers more competitive salaries than other cities like Amsterdam or Paris.
The impact of Covid-19 on digital talent
The Covid-19 crisis has also had an impact on the digital talent market worldwide. London, Paris and Barcelona are the cities where the demand for jobs has slowed down the most, also in the digital sector. However, the need for digitalization of companies and administrations has now become more apparent than ever, so digital professionals remain the most sought-after profiles during the pandemic as well.
In Catalonia, between March and May 2020, more than 6,700 job offers were published in the digital field. This is a much higher figure than other categories such as management and financial operations, which have seen a much more significant fall in demand for employment in this period despite remaining active in hiring new professionals.
At the beginning of 2020, web development and cloud are the most sought-after digital profiles. In addition, as stated in the Barcelona Digital Talent Report 2020 by Joaquim Camps, Director of Human Resources at Social Point, “the gaming sector is in a privileged position during the Covid-19 crisis, with a trend of high growth in recent years that has even accelerated due to the pandemic. Many professionals see the sector as a place to learn, develop and explore new ways of working, organising and innovating. It keeps growing and attracting talent”.
The digital sector, the engine of employment in Europe
On a European level, employment growth in the digital sector remains unstoppable. Between 2008 and 2018, the employment of ICT specialists grew by 41.3% in Europe, a figure much higher than the modest 3.4% that global employment grew in the same period. The UK and Germany are the main poles of technological talent in Europe. Both countries gather 36% of tech professionals while only representing 29% of the total population. The current migratory flows of technological talent are coming and going to the United Kingdom, which hosts 15% of mobility within the EU and 21% of mobility outside the Union; in addition to being the country of origin of almost 35% of the emigration of European digital talent, which places it as the main exporting power of digital talent to the EU. Germany, on the other hand, stands out for its ability to retain digital talent, as it concentrates 17% of EU professionals and it is the country of origin of only 8.8% of international talent.
Spain contributes only 6.6% of Europe’s digital talent (323,000 professionals). Regarding mobility, it presents a positive balance in the flows of ICT talent as the country attracts 8.5% of mobility within the EU and exports 4.3% of all technological talent outside of the European Union.
Pending challenges in digital talent
Academic excellence in the field of technology is a pending challenge in Spain as none of its universities are listed in the world and European rankings, where countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom stand out with such recognized centres as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (USA), Stanford University (USA), Carnegie Mellon University (USA) and University of Oxford (UK). In Spain, Barcelona has the main ICT training centre: the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), which is the main reference in digital training in Spain, followed by the Carlos III University in the Community of Madrid.
Another pending challenge in Catalonia is to improve the ratio of graduates to those enrolled. While interest in digital training is growing year after year, graduates are not doing so in the same proportion. In the last five years (2014 – 2019), only 11% of students have completed their studies at the University.