In what may be the country's first comprehensive survey of the open source industry, the Australian Open Source Industry Census has revealed IT professionals working with free software earn more than the national average.
The census, due for full release in March, was conducted by Sydney-based consulting firm Waugh Partners with support from Fujitsu, IBM and NICTA.
Waugh Partners' directors Pia and Jeff Waugh released partial findings from the census during a presentation at the Linux.conf.au Linux and open source conference in Melbourne last week.
The census indicates full-time salaries for open source workers peak at around 76,000 to 100,000 and for women salaries peaked from between 46,000 to 60,000.
The good news is salaries are three times the national median, so "full-time open source pays more", according to Pia Waugh.
"Most are working as software engineers, or in a non-ICT role," she said. "Women have lower unemployment, are contracting more and working full-time less."
Waugh said it is unfortunate women in open source are paid less than men, even with a job for job comparison, and a representation of 7 percent women is low, but considering Australia has a low ICT representation for women generally the results are not great, but not dire.
"One [respondent] works as a pilot and sits on the plane and does Apache hacking on flights from Sydney to London," she said.
When introducing the motivation behind the census, Jeff Waugh said many people have an idea of how large and mature the local open source industry is, but "anecdotal evidence only gets you so far" and a more formal survey would provide better information.
With 327 respondents "when you take out the journalist who wanted to get the questions and the Microsoft people", Waugh Partners believes the sample size is "a reasonable sample of the community".
Waugh Partners believes the sample size is greater than 5 percent of the total open source industry size, making the results a credible representation of the whole industry.
When asked if they were paid to work on free and open source software 57 percent responded "never", 10 percent "full-time", 9 percent "often", and 24 percent "occasionally".
The census results have been compared against the broader ICT industry and the general population and covers a range of demographics, including work habits, industry location, educational experience, and types of free software used.
The Australian Open Source Industry Census full report is due in March this year and will be freely distributable.