Pay constraints hamper government’s ability to attract top tech talent, report finds

Written by Sam Trendall on 3 February 2023 in News

Whitehall Monitor finds that DDaT profession has expanded vastly since 2016, but challenges remain in filling the biggest jobs

Credit: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

Government’s digital, data and technology profession has expanded significantly in recent years, but pay constraints hamper departments’ ability to recruit in-demand skills and fill the most senior roles, a major annual report has concluded.

According to the 2023 edition of the Whitehall Monitor study – published each year by think tank the Institute for Government – DDaT is among government’s fastest-growing professions, having seen a 79% increase in numbers since 2016. As of March 2022, there were 19,500 full-time digital professionals employed across departments. 

But the IfG report claims that, while agencies such as the Government Digital Service and the Department for Work and Pensions have “been seen as performing well at recruiting DDaT professionals… departments with less developed technical strengths have found recruitment difficult”.

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The government-wide digital and data strategy published last year by the Central Digital and Data Office at least “recognises the need to recruit, develop and retain digital technology skills more consistently between departments”, according to the think tank.

The report said: “The CDDO strategy identifies the need to standardise recruitment processes across Whitehall through the creation of a single ’front door’ for technical applicants before being assigned to specific departments, as well as the need to bring salary levels for DDaT professionals closer to equivalent industry standards across departments, and improve consistency across the civil service, using the DDaT Pay Framework. But these initiatives will require commitment from all departments.”

The issue of pay is a cited as a significant challenge in filling the most senior positions; the IfG points to the “three-year hunt to recruit a chief digital officer” as an illustrative example.

“The civil service chief operating officer, Alex Chisholm, told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that while the proposed salary was “top whack” for the civil service, market research showed that ‘the sort of people we are looking for would be earning multiples of what we are able to pay’ outside government,” the report said.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on

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