With LinkedIn releasing a report on increasing demand for highly paid jobs in the region, the flip side of this picture is employers struggling to find low-paid workers, as shared by CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman. This has had a severe impact on the food supply chain especially because of workers having to go into isolation after catching the Omicron strain.
The Independent Food Distributors Association, which represents hundreds of suppliers across Australia, says the staff shortages were having a devastating impact on businesses, and rural communities were particularly vulnerable. 'We've got to keep in mind the remote and Indigenous communities are out there and we need to make sure we keep getting the food up to them,' says Chief Executive Richard Forbes. He adds that federal, state and territory governments should be prioritising critical distribution services, and subsidising the cost of running their businesses during the pandemic as independent distributors play a critical role of delivering food to 1500 hospitals and aged care facilities around Australia, as well as prisons, schools and military bases.
In response to this, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston suggested opening up job opportunities for older Australians, the unemployed, and temporary visa holders to ease the burden on the nation's supply chain caused by surging COVID-19 cases.
'A very high number of the workforce are currently furloughed either because they have Covid, are caring for someone with Covid or are a close contact. Anybody who is currently on unemployment benefits who is able to work, we would be really keen for them to undertake some really active investigations about how they could help out with these workforce shortages,' Senator Ruston told Sky News.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese blamed the staff shortages on a lack of rapid antigen tests. Businesses have also raised the need for national consistency and clarity around isolation and testing requirements with Senator Ruston which included ensuring adequate and consistent supplies of rapid antigen tests.