Speaking in Code: the Growing Importance of Programming Languages

Speaking in Code: the Growing Importance of Programming Languages

Between the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, extreme weather events, inflation and geopolitical tensions, the coming year looks set to be an unpredictable one. Among the things that can be confidently predicted are that there will be more code written, more software developers and engineers needed and that the programming languages they use will continue to be vitally important.

It is hard to imagine an industry, sector or company on the planet that won’t be impacted by the digital shift, if it hasn’t already.  As the world continues to move online and become more digitised and connected, the need for skilled coders in a variety of languages is only going to increase.

More tech, more coders, more code

And once full digitalisation and connectivity becomes standard, that is unlikely to bring a drop or even plateauing in demand for code and developers. Indeed, companies will have to differentiate themselves through factors such as better customer-facing interfaces, ICT operational efficiency or better internal infrastructure to help with employee satisfaction.

Intensified competition will drive more innovation in both technology and software, mean that code becomes obsolete more quickly and make the nature of projects needing to be tackled more complex, all of which will increase demand for developers able to make the best use of programming languages.  

Talking different languages

There are now hundreds of programming languages in use around the world, though their popularity does fluctuate and vary by sector, and to a lesser extent by location.

According to the IEEE Spectrum rankings, the top five most popular languages worldwide in 2021 were, in order: Python, Java, C, C++ and JavaScript, with the same five in a slightly different order also the most in-demand from employers.  While results vary somewhat between rankings and surveys, the same languages do appear at the top of all them.

Interestingly, none of these languages is even remotely new. C first appeared in the early 70s, while the rest were mostly developed in the 1990s.   

In Japan, Java is king in terms of desirability among employers, followed by JavaScript, Ruby and Python. Meanwhile, more niche languages such as R, Go, Typescript, Kotlin and Scala commanded the highest average salaries in Japan in 2020, according to HRog.

Job market royalty

The number of software developers in the US is going to increase 22% between 2020 and 2030, predicts the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the growth rate expected in most professions. Globally, the growth is going to be even sharper. A study by market research firm Evans Data Corporation predicts that worldwide, the number of software developers will expand by 75% to 45 million over the next decade.

A global survey by the CodinGame platform found that more than 60% of human resource professionals said hiring qualified developers was their biggest recruitment challenge in 2021. In the UK, one in 10 job vacancies are for tech and IT positions.  

In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is forecasting a shortage of hundreds of thousands of programmers in the coming decades.

An article in Forbes in September detailed the growing demand for coders and stated simply:  “Developers are job market royalty.”

Speaking the right language

But just being a coder is not enough. As discussed earlier, being able to work with the required languages is vital.  The necessary language or languages will naturally depend on the company or specific project a coder is hired to work on, but there are general trends. On the whole, smaller companies are more likely to hire full-stack developers who are competent across multiple languages, as they can work across multiple projects.

Bigger firms on the other hand, tend to be looking for specialists in a particular language or two, which they can afford to hire for different projects. However, there are large companies and multinationals which are prepared to pay to train, for example, a coder skilled in Java to learn Python.

Another potential route is to attend a coding bootcamp. Once the preserve of Silicon Valley, they are now to be found in most big cities, including Tokyo. In addition, many both in Japan and elsewhere now also offer online courses, greatly expanding the options available.

In the US, the top three coding bootcamps delivered higher employment rates than computer science degrees from elite universities, according to data from analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies.

While that may not yet be the case in Japan, reskilling or skilling-up at a bootcamp is a strategy that could still make the difference between landing a dream position or not.

By: Gavin Blair

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