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Game on for video games sector

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Aon Hewitt and TIGA survey shows salaries increasing and job opportunities set to grow

Aon Hewitthas released the key findings from the 2013/14 Games Software Developers' Salary survey, carried out in association with TIGA, the trade association representing the UK video game industry. The survey shows that for the first time in five years, games industry salaries rose more than the UK average – by 3.4 percent compared to 3.1 percent (Aon Hewitt's Global Salary Increase Survey (SIS)). With Games Tax Relief coming into force in April 2014 (following TIGA’s seven-year lobbying campaign) offering studios up to a 25 percent reduction in core development costs, which can include salaries, the industry is set for growth. Additional research from TIGA suggests that over 4,660 highly skilled jobs will be created in the industry over the next five years.

Steve Munday, senior reward consultant at Aon Hewitt said: “With five years of data now embedded into Aon Hewitt's databases, the Games Software Developers' Salary Survey provides an established, comprehensive and well trusted source of market data. Our 2013/14 survey again provides a detailed picture of the industry.” Given the recent reports that university leavers have seen their starting salaries plummet over the past five years, the news that the games industry salaries are rising faster than the overall UK market will come as encouraging news to students seeking a career in the UK games business. With the recent approval of Games Tax Relief in the UK, which TIGA predicts will create and protect 4,661 jobs while also stimulating £188 million in new investment over the next five years, students deciding what degree to take, would do well to look at those relating to video game development.

Driving regional growth
It has been established that game development companies based in regional tech clusters, benefit from having a richer talent pool on their doorstep and the ability to share ideas and learning. The 2014 survey demonstrates that games software development in the UK is a great example of a sector that can drive regional growth and offer relatively well paid roles outside London when compared to Office for National Statistics (ONS) regional pay differentials. While game software development salaries in London appear to be broadly on a par with the survey's national average, employees in the West Midlands (including Birmingham) can receive up to 21 percent higher wages on average. Other standout regions were South East England (including places such as Brighton), which pays 17 percent above the survey average, and North West England (including Liverpool), which pays 11 percent above the survey average.

This can be compared with ONS figures which suggest that the West Midlands is 7 percent below the national salary average, while the North West is 6 percent below the national average. Evidently, in some regions working in the game development sector is a highly attractive option and since the recession there has been a general recognition that the UK economy would benefit from stronger regional growth, so it is encouraging to see the games industry contributing in this way.

Programming sees biggest rise
In terms of job functions, the largest median base salary increase was in technical development and programming, which saw a rise of 4.2 percent, followed by Quality Assurance at 3.5 percent. The lowest increase of all was design, which saw a rise of 2.8 percent.  However, it should be noted that design had the largest rise of all job functions in the previous year (3.5 percent), so this is likely to be the effect of design salaries balancing out.

12 months to address the paternity leave issue
Another key finding from the 2013/14 survey was that new legislation around paternity leave, which comes into effect in 12 months time, could have an important impact on the industry.  This is due to the demographics of the sector, where 92 percent of the UK game developer workforce is male, with an average age of 34 and an average length of service of five years. From April 2015, parents will be allowed to share a total of 52 weeks off work after having a baby or adopting. Under these new rules, a mother could choose to return to work more quickly and hand over her unused allowance to the father. According to the ONS, the average age of fathers in the UK is 32. Employees qualify for additional parental leave after 26 weeks of continuous employment. UK games studios should begin planning for the new measure immediately.

Employee turnover down
TIGA and Aon Hewitt’s data also reveals that employee turnover in the games industry has declined. The survey revealed a drop from 13.5 percent in 2013 to 12.8 percent in 2014. This compares to a UK average employee turnover rate, which many commentators have suggested is at about 14 percent.Dr. Richard Wilson, chief executive officer of TIGA, said: “This is a great time to be in the UK video game industry. Salaries in the games industry are now rising faster than the national average. Job opportunities are set to grow and investment in the sector is set to increase. TIGA research suggests that at least 4,660 highly skilled jobs will be generated and £188 million in investment will be triggered over the next five years thanks to the introduction of Games Tax Relief, a measure that TIGA campaigned for over the last seven years.”

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