Australia suffers from a severe skills gap with job shortages doubling in 2022

Australia is facing “breathtaking” skills shortages, according to a new report from the National Skills Commission, which shows job shortages have doubled in 2022 as the labor market tightens.

The number of occupations struggling to fill vacancies rose from 153 to 286 over the year, meaning nearly a third of all Australian sectors are facing severe labor shortages.

The list of priority skills shows that registered nurses, software engineers and caregivers are the most in demand, with construction managers, childcare workers and auto mechanics also leading the way.

Vacancies increased by more than 40% in the year to August 2022, reaching 309,000 jobs, according to the report.

Of the 20 most employing occupations, more than half face severe labor shortages.

The occupations with the highest number of vacancies included technicians, professionals, machinery operators and labourers, and community and personal service workers.

The federal government has said skills shortages in Australia are the second highest in the OECD.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

The health and social assistance sector accounted for the largest share of people who changed jobs in the year ending February 2022. (ABC News: Nic MacBean)

The quarterly average through June 2022 shows registered nurses were by far the most in demand, with 9,266 vacancies.

This follows a broader trend among other healthcare professionals, such as general practitioners.

Demand for the health professional cohort has increased by nearly 50% in 2022, the largest increase of any occupation sub-group.

“The result appears primarily driven by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

He said “the health and social care industry accounted for the largest share of people changing jobs” in the year to February 2022, at over 12%.

The report identifies burnout as a key factor.

He cites a survey showing that more than 20% of frontline healthcare workers increased their unpaid hours during the height of the pandemic.

“More than 70% of healthcare workers experienced moderate to severe burnout,” the report said.

The commission predicts that things could get worse. As the country’s population ages, there will be a high demand for medical professionals.

“Persistent” shortages

Four men, three wearing high visibility work shirts, seated on stairs.
Nearly 50% of trades and technician jobs were short of manpower in 2022.(Provided)

Among the broader industry groups, technicians, trades workers and professionals experienced the most shortages as a proportion of the workforce.

Nearly 50% of jobs for tradesmen and technicians were in short supply in 2022. For professionals, it was around 40%.

The commission said shortages in both countries had persisted over time, suggesting Australia’s tight labor market was not the only explanation.

He said service industries, including professional, technical and scientific industries, healthcare and education, were among Australia’s fastest growing industries, adding to demand.

Not identifying shortages

Jobs and Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said that although the pandemic has exacerbated the problems, shortages existed before.

“We failed to identify existing shortages and forecast areas of labor market demand,” he said.

“The staggering increase in scheduled occupations reinforces the urgent need to tackle skills shortages.”

The federal government has announced that it will create a new agency, Jobs and Skills Australia, to tackle the problem.

“We need to invest more in our own workforce and in the potential workforce, invest in TAFE, invest in universities, invest in schools so that we have the skills to fill the existing gaps and future shortages that will occur if we don’t attend to that,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Earlier this year, the government also announced that it would make an additional 180,000 TAFE places free.

Mr O’Connor said he would not rule out a number of additional measures, including making more tertiary qualifications free, if needed.

“I think everything has to be on the table when it comes to providing the skills and manpower that we need.”

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Calls to hire older workers to tackle staff shortages

Mr O’Connor also criticized the migration settings of the previous government, saying they had crippled attempts to fill shortages.

His government announced an increase in Australia’s permanent migration cap by 35,000 earlier this year.

“We are a very attractive destination, but there are other attractive destinations and there are a lot of countries, for example, that offer, you know, offer, you know, permanent qualified migration channels, not just temporary visas .”

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Michael A. Bynum