Job prospects in the Hong Kong information technology sector have improved slightly over the past six months and may continue a modest recovery through the rest of the year, according to recruiting firm Michael Page. The company has released an information technology industry salary survey and says the trend has been generally downwards recently, especially in the area of Web development. Trends the firm found included greater use of fixed-term contracts for projects and stronger demand for Mandarin speakers and for technical people who also had project-management skills. On the general market trend, associate director for banking and technology Andrew Oliver said the firm believed the minor turnaround had already started and might continue. 'Our impression is that things have been very tough for a long time. We are seeing a slight improvement in the market, not a major improvement, a slight improvement. Nobody can see into the future and it's a difficult one to call,' Mr Oliver said. As the global economic slowdown took hold in the past two years, many firms shed IT staff in favour of outsourcing and fixed-term contract positions. These projects would often be systems implementations and systems upgrades that lasted for six months to a year. 'It's going to be things where there is a finite task to do. It's more project-related work,' Mr Oliver said. Ability to communicate in Mandarin was becoming a prerequisite for some jobs as more and more companies overseas and in Hong Kong began seeing the mainland playing a large role in their businesses, he said. 'It's like saying you need five years' Unix experience,' he said, adding that candidates were not being passed over simply because they did not know Mandarin but in some cases the factor was so important that only Mandarin-speaking candidates were considered. This year's survey noted that recent mergers and acquisitions had reduced demand for senior managers and slowing somewhat advancement toward positions of greater responsibility within the industry, 'with candidates needing to be more patient regarding career progression'. Interviewing and hiring was also taking longer than it did a year or two ago, as was true in most sectors, Mr Oliver said. Electronic commerce projects had slowed but many banks were said to be working on systems aimed at using Web technologies to improve internal efficiency. Technologists who could manage complex projects and who could translate jargon were also in demand, according to Michael Page. 'Salary movements have not all been negative, with a few areas seeing flat or slightly positive movements,' the survey said. 'Business analysts with the ability to communicate fluently between business and technology have fared well.'