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Jobs in Photonics

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2005
The Fourth Annual European Survey Not So Good News

When Photonics Spectra conducted its annual European salary survey, it found a shift in pay that was slightly surprising.

This year’s survey shows a decrease in pay. In 2004, the median salary for Europe was €60,000. This year, our salary survey has seen the median figure drop to €54,000. When you add the fact that there was a median raise of 2 percent, it indicates that people who were at higher pay have been leaving the industry, especially when you consider that the median length of service at photonics companies has remained a constant 12 years. If the industry were growing, that number should increase.

This is borne out by the change in “years of experience” demographics. Although the salary for respondents with less than five years of experience increased, those in the other three categories declined.

The drop was not influenced by one country; both France and the UK had small decreases in median pay, with France going from €45,500 in 2004 to €45,000 in 2005, and the UK going from £36,000 to £35,500. Germany remained constant at £60,000.

But a reversal to the drop in pay is the answer to the question, “Do you think your salary is fair compensation or too low?” In 2004, 48 percent thought their compensation was fair. In 2005, 57 percent thought they received fair compensation.

So at a time when there are many announcements of major layoffs or cuts in pay, people in photonics might be happier than those in other industries.

And job satisfaction remains virtually the same, with 78 percent of this year’s respondents saying “yes” compared with last year’s 79 percent. Job satisfaction is consistent among the three countries. With only 20 percent looking for a job, for the most part, people are happy with their work.

But there is one change that may indicate a trend. There was a pronounced change in the criteria for a better job. In 2004, 22 percent of the respondents indicated that more money was the No. 1 criterion for a better job. In 2005, that percentage increased to 70 percent.

In fact, the answers to this quiry saw such dramatic gains that we provided a table of the differences. So although job satisfaction remains steady, companies need to be aware of a growing concern for income from those who work in the industry.

For other parts of the survey, consistency is common. The median hours per week has remained constant at 45 hours.

The high rate of people in this industry who travel for their job has been fairly steady this year, at 88 percent. There are differences by country, however. Germany had the most respondents who travel (98 percent), followed by France with 87 percent and the UK with 79 percent.

People travel frequently, a median of 12 times per year. Again, there are differences by country, with the UK having a median of five times per year, France, six times, and Germany 12.

We added a new question that will be interesting to track in the future. We asked our readers whether their company is hiring, and 48 percent said yes while 34 percent said no. Additionally, when asked if their company is hiring for positions that involve photonics technology, 33 percent said yes while 43 percent said no.

As in the past, we have concentrated on three countries from which we could expect enough of a return for meaningful results. Our response rate was similar to last year’s.

The survey gives readers a chance to comment on one of our favorite questions, “What is the toughest problem you find working in the photonics industry?” The answers varied from a particular technical problem to finding suppliers, and they give our editors a look at topics we may want to cover.

But the overriding problem that we continue to see is, “Keeping up with the advances in the technology.” At least we know that Photonics Spectra will have a job for a while.

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