Businesses are screaming to fill holes in Australia’s labor force after a significant drop in migration during the pandemic.
This month, online job advertisements reached their highest level since 2006, according to the National Skills Commission, up eight percent to 311,100.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the labor shortage “the single biggest problem facing the Australian economy today” in an interview with ABC 730 this week.
Both major parties say they will promote migration to help cope with skills shortages, but business officials say neither plan goes far enough to return workers to the country urgently.
Australia’s current migration plan for 2022-23 includes 109,900 places for skilled migrants compared to 79,600 a year earlier.
“The immigration program will start to grow again, and it will be largely focused on skills,” Mr Morrison explained.
Executive Director of the Australian Business Council Jennifer Westakot said that with the restoration of borders Australia should seek to expand immigration, not just “being routine activities” to make up for lost during the pandemic.
“This will eliminate the lack of skilled important industries such as IT and engineering, where projects are constrained by a lack of talent,” she said.
“Skilled migrants increase demand, increase productivity and labor force participation, and provide talent and experience that complement local workers.”
Ms. Westcott added that in many cases, foreign workers brought certain sets of skills that the domestic workforce could not provide.
Mr Morrison said his government was aiming to expand domestic training programs to fill qualified positions, and could boast that 220,000 Australians were now being trained.
Employers are not the only ones affected by the blow: data show that on Wednesday wages fell in real terms after rising less than twice as low as inflation.
ABS data showed that wages rose 0.7 percent in the 2022 quarter with annual growth of 2.4 percent.
Mr Morrison said he supported the salary increase but left it to the Australian Labor Tribunal.
“I support the Commission’s fair wage decisions, taking into account all the factors that affect people’s lives and whether they will be better off,” he said.
Ms. Westcott said the best way to ensure a steady increase in wages and help increase the cost of living is to increase productivity.
She said problems such as labor shortages need to be addressed to sustain the economy.
“We need to continue to recover along the way, tackling supply issues that risk holding back the economy,” she said.
“This message has not changed – we need to ensure that Australia remains globally competitive to attract the investment needed to sustain productivity and real wages.”