Who will replace migrant workers?
For many years, Australia has relied on both skilled and unskilled migration. This creates demand for goods and services, e.g. new housing. It also enables certain industries to keep running smoothly by filling hundreds of thousands of job vacancies each year. The COVID-19 crisis has caused migration to dry up. New migrants are expected to fall from 200,000 in 2019/20 to 50,000 in 2020/21. Is this an issue for the Australian economy? Prospert believes it is a unique opportunity for employment services providers. Encouraging participants to relocate for regional jobs is vital to balance the increasing labour supply in our major cities with excess demand in regional Australia.
Which industries hire migrant workers?
In an earlier blog, The Jobs in Demand Right Now, we highlighted industries with relatively bright job prospects: manufacturing; warehousing; retail (notably supermarkets, chemists, and commercial cleaners); hospitals and care facilities; IT and call centres; mining and agriculture/harvest. It happens that migrants (referred to as Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) candidates are highly represented in these industries compared with their non-CALD counterparts. In key sectors, they actually dominate the workforce. For example, Australian horticulture relies on Pacific Island, Asian, African workers and overseas backpackers for harvest labour, whilst many recently arrived immigrants work in Retail, Transport, Hospitality and Warehousing. Who will replace these workers in 2020/21, particularly in regional Australia?
A case for inter-region collaboration?
The Federal Government provides relocation assistance (https://www.employment.gov.au/relocation-assistance-take-job) for participants willing to pursue jobs in another region. A 2016 Government study found the program had failed to gain traction with less than 1% of those eligible participating. Could COVID-19 create positive momentum to boost participation? Around 500,000 new participants are entering the employment services realm shortly. Will more than 1% be interested in relocating to find work? Young CALD participants previously employed in accommodation, tourism, travel, hospitality, or the arts may make an ideal regional workforce for agriculture, call centres, hospitals and care facilities. The challenge is encouraging them to relocate where necessary. To facilitate this, it makes sense for metropolitan-based providers to partner with rural and regional providers to share the challenge. It can work both ways too – with regional participants getting help to move to cities. The Government encourages collaboration and this is a sure-fire way to make that happen.
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