Australia is facing skilled worker shortages that almost reach 500,000 in numbers, new data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown.
The data underscores that critical worker shortages of almost half a million are holding back Australia’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott, the lack of critically skilled workers is punishing Australia’s small businesses and customers who want to travel and go out following two years of disruptions brought about by the coronavirus.
Ms Westacott said Australian businesses are crying out for almost half a million skilled workers to fill roles that keep their doors open for business.
She also said the critical skills shortage in Australia is more than double pre-pandemic levels, which is a big concern.
She lamented the lack of workers, saying that it has rendered small businesses unable to expand, innovate, boost productivity, and pay sustained higher wages.
Many customers are having to face long waiting times when they travel, while others are unable to get the services they want, such as reservations in Australian restaurants and cafes, she said.
She also claimed it was impossible for restaurants to operate when they lack the necessary staff, and for construction companies to work on their projects without sufficiently skilled engineers.
To boost Australia’s post-pandemic recovery, businesses need to attract skilled migrants, increase labour force participation, and deliver a skills system that allows Australians to upskill and reskill quickly.
These would also ensure the people get the services they expect, according to Ms Westacott.
She went on to rue the lack of skilled migrants in the country, saying that there were almost as many unemployed Australians as there are job vacancies.
Australia has recently announced plans to expand its Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa category in a bid to boost skilled migration to Australia and speed up the recovery process.
Ms Westacott said Australian businesses were looking forward to working with the federal government to clear long visa processing delays, to ensure that Australia’s immigration system gets the skills and workers needed for the future.
She said it is also a national priority to attract the best talent from around the world to tackle Australia’s acute workforce shortages, which would keep the recovery on track.