Labor’s skills minister Brendan O’Connor has expressed his support in bringing in more foreign workers to fill job vacancies as a temporary solution to the jobs crisis.
Critical shortages have been reported in industries across the country from hospitality to construction to manufacturing.
Mr O’Connor cited a ‘skills deficit’ in industries as a major economic issue facing Australia and the biggest hurdle to filling vacancies.
The government, unions and employers will be meeting at prime minister Anthony Albanese‘s jobs summit in September to work on a plan to upskill Australian workers, while employer groups will be arguing for a higher skilled migrant intake.
Australia faces job shortages in key industries across the country with Anthony Albanese’s government hoping to address the issue
Skills minister Brendan O’Connor (pictured) has backed increasing the intake of skilled foreign workers as an immediate response to significant job shortages across the country
Mr O’Connor claimed that resetting the skilled migration stream would work as an immediate response, with a longer term goal of upskilling Aussies.
‘I believe that there’s a combination of investing in skills in the labour market, and also relying on the restoration of the skilled migration streams,’ he told The Australian.
But the skills minister stressed that increasing the skilled migrant intake should only be a temporary solution to shortages and not at the ‘expense of investing in skills in our existing labour market’.
Mr O’Connor asserted that the previous government got ‘too lazy’ and tended to rely on temporary skilled visas to fill vacancies.
The skills minister echoed the same sentiments when he appeared on the ABC’s Q and A last month.
‘We do need to invest more in the skill shortage areas and the areas of emerging demand in our labour market,’ he said in response to a question about shortages.
‘We want to work with industry, work with unions and training providers to really properly match up the investment of tax payer’s dollars in the training sector with those areas that are in demand.’
He, again, flagged a restoration of the skilled migration stream as an immediate response, but said his ‘priority’ as skills minister was the domestic labour market and Australian workers.
Chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, said that both solutions – increasing migrant intake and upskilling Australian workers – should be done concurrently.
‘We have to do both.’
‘Realistically, there aren’t enough workers here today to fill the critical worker shortfall hamstringing businesses across the economy, from the local cafe to global investors employing thousands of Australians,’ she said.
The skills minister said the government’s long term goal is to invest in upskilling Australian workers to fill vacancies. (pictured, contruction workers at a site in Darling Harbour, Sydney)
There are more than 480,000 jobs unfilled across Australia, with more than 548,000 Aussies reportedly jobless. (pictured, Hospitality workers in Sydney’s CBD)
There are now nearly as many job vacancies as there are unemployed Australians, as industries suffer the fallout from the Covid pandemic.
There are more than 480,000 roles unfilled, while the number of Aussies who classify themselves as jobless stands at 548,100, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The record number of available employment opportunities is up 14 per cent from February, and more than double the number of jobs going in February 2020.
Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said the number of businesses looking to hire at least one more staff member has also boomed.
‘A quarter of businesses reported having at least one vacancy in May this year,’ he said.
‘This rate was more than double the pre-pandemic level in February 2020 (11 per cent), which highlights the extent to which businesses are finding it more difficult to find staff.’
Victoria saw job vacancies jump by 18 per cent in just three months, while positions available in NSW increased by 12 per cent.
Industries reporting significant job vacancies in May 2022
Public administration and safety – 37.9 per cent
Electricity, gas, water and waste services – 34.5 per cent
Accommodation and food services – 34 per cent
Construction – 30.3 per cent
Information media and telecommunications – 26.7 per cent
Health care and social assistance – 26.7 per cent
Mining – 24.8 per cent
Transport, postal and warehousing – 22.6 per cent
Manufacturing – 22.3 per cent
Retail trade – 17.7 per cent