Umbrella companies supplying the IT skills market may well have noticed a “huge rise” in demand for contractors with digital skills over the last twelve months, according to a new study.

Recently published research from the freelancer’s marketplace PeoplePerHour.com reveals that while the Government’s public spending austerities have caused a surge in unemployment, the resulting shortage of manpower in the public sector has been offset by a flurry of contractor hiring.

In particular, contractors with digital skills such as search engine optimisation, database development and web design have been very much in demand. PeoplePerHour.com recorded a massive 315 per cent rise in postings for contractors with these skills over the last year.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, the website’s founder, said that the private sector responded rapidly to the recession by shedding permanent staff and turning to freelancers instead. Thousands of businesses in the UK, he added, quickly understood that the best way to survive the new economic realty was to engage freelancers on time-limited contracts. The decision helped them to “stay lean and remain solvent,” he said.

The public sector, it seems, has taken a leaf from the private sector’s survival book. PeoplePerHour.com’s findings lend support to the PCG’s recent endeavours to encourage refugees from the public sector to consider freelance contracting as an alternative. Contrary to popular belief, the organisation cites evidence that many “ex-bureaucrats” can successfully make the transition from the public sector to the private through contracting. The key obstacle identified by recruiters, the PCG insist, is poor self-belief on the part of ex-public sector employees.

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