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What’s the biggest challenge for Australian businesses heading into 2022? Crippling workforce shortages and inability to access the right talent!
A recent KPMG survey brought to light how the Australian economy is re-emerging post the easing of unending COVID-19 restrictions and the challenges that continue to paralyse the economy’s ability to bounce back faster.
The survey that examined responses of over 400 CEOs, emerging business leaders and non-executive directors, found that about two-thirds of the senior business leaders believe that finding and retaining talent is an overwhelming concern heading into 2022. The leaders in fact fear these problems may persist for another three to five years.
Beyond these two key concerns, other fears of business leaders include:
- Challenges surrounding adapting to a more digitised future including cyber vulnerability
- Challenges and benefits presented by the trend towards greater remote-working
- Developing strategies guiding their organisations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance
While strict border closures enabled the country to minimise the drastic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, it came at the cost of businesses, which now “urgently require additional people resources”, the survey said.
According to data, Australia’s net overseas migration fell by nearly 100,000 people in the 12 months to the end of March 2021, following border closures for migrants and returning Australian residents, as well as foreign workers returning to their respective homeland owing to the pandemic.
Commenting on the findings, KPMG Australia Chairman Alison Kitchen said, “It is clear that as Australia starts to emerge fully from the lockdowns of the last two years, having enough skilled talent to meet customer needs is the key challenge concerning all businesses. And they don’t see this changing in the next few years.”
Another report by National Australia Bank (NAB) echoed the fears. The report revealed that nearly 4 in 10 Australian businesses are experiencing significant impacts from labor shortages.
NAB Chief Ross McEwan strongly believes that bringing more talent back into Australia would be key to addressing the shortage in the coming 12 months. “Almost every employer I talk to, from cafes, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing, is saying ‘we can’t get workers’,” he said adding, “To get the economy really firing, we will need to bring people into Australia and make sure, as a nation, we're building a skilled workforce for the future."
Looking ahead, McEwan highlights that data scientists, digital experts and technology skills will remain in high demand right across the economy in Australia.
While employers remain aggressive on talent acquisition to accelerate recovery, trade unions seek secure employment.
“Ramping up temporary migration will only worsen the real employment crisis in Australia — the cancer of insecure work, which is hurting working people and holding back the national economic recovery,” noted Liam O’Brien, Acting Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
If migration is the only solution to counter Australia’s persistent labor shortage, the country clearly has a rocky road ahead with potential border closures depending upon the reach of Omicron. While remote work keeps the door open to access migrant workers, the shortage continues to cripple sectors that require on-site presence of staff. It remains crucial for both local businesses as well as businesses with a presence in Australia to equip their facilities with adequate safety measures that minimise and preferably eliminate the risk of infection for this segment of the workforce.