When 6.3% Unemployment Actually Feels Like 2.1%

No doubt you have been out in weather that feels much colder than it actually is, you know the days we say “It is 17 degrees Celsius but is feels like 13”, well this describes what is going on with the unemployment and the labour market situation at the moment.  For some is totally unexpected but for some of us not unforeseen.

The current recorded unemployment rate in South Australia stands at 6.3% released on 15.4.21 by the ABS (Source: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/latest-release#states-and-territories).

This experience from Australia, specifically South Australia, may be very different to what you are experiencing if you are in another part of the world. Many friends across the Asia Pacific, Europe, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand have shared what recent times have meant for them. Regardless of where you are, it is important to learn about the various aspects of the global economy, so you can be on top of all the potential opportunities, alongside creating jobs and supporting entrepreneurs.

But generally speaking, the anticipated environment in 2021 was expected to see many people losing their jobs, higher unemployment, limited jobs available and perhaps an oversupply of people and skills in particular industry sectors.

Whether this is a temporary circumstance or more permanent, there are some ‘big’ questions and a recent poll on LinkedIn demonstrates that the majority think that a long term strategy is needed.

And there is a ‘perfect storm’ set of circumstances, which has led to:

  1. Accessing Government incentives and programs stimulating huge demand, for example the HomeBuilder program;
  2. Building a backup pools of funds from JobKeeper and [double] JobSeeker payments;
  3. Changing to perceived more ‘secure’ jobs and sectors (i.e. moving from sectors most impacted by lockdowns);
  4. Considering higher level (higher valued) qualifications to enable the next career moves;
  5. Realising minimum skills levels are not enough… entry level jobs are not Australian Qualifications level 1-2, instead is it 3-4;
  6. Paying down credit cards and debt, including mortgages and maybe saving by not going out so much throughout 2020, as well as tapping into Super funds;
  7. Prioritising things other than work, honing in on what is really important to you, your partner and family;
  8. Saying "nup I’m not doing that", where you are registered with the JobActive or Disability Employment Provider (or similar job agencies in your country);
  9. Experiencing a shortage of housing (rental and buying) in metro and especially regional locations, so if you can’t get there then how can you work there?;
  10. Seeing a values alignment (or not) on employment becoming event more important plus the rise of the side hustle;
  11. Understanding VET policy and programs should not be ‘on hold’, instead they should be supercharged based upon evidence of demand vs. supply, now and into the future;
  12. Realising that VET qualifications and Training Packages are not dynamic enough, often behind industry needs and taking too long to catch up and, without system wide change, will never be in a position to get in front of skills demand; and
  13. Having an appreciation of the importance of a Workforce Vision – which is sorely lacking in terms of the Australian workforce overall, where a number of industry sectors and regions have stepped up, but not Government to form a collective picture of what we should all work together for.

But right at this point in time, employers are crying out for applicants, the numbers of people applying for job vacancies is low, there are screamingly obvious mismatches with skills and attitudes, and is it taking a much longer lead time to fill job roles.  Examples of jobs where even though there are a number available, there is a very small applicant pool, and even when people accept a date and time for an interview, they do not turn up.

There are extremely acute labour and skills shortages in regions and some industries or job roles are surprisingly on the hard to recruit for list.

Job roles where it is very difficult to gain enough quality applicants include (just a sample and not comprehensive):

  1. Accountants
  2. Care workers
  3. Chefs
  4. Cleaners
  5. Contact centre/customer service representatives
  6. Employment consultants
  7. Food and beverage attendants
  8. Gardeners
  9. Kitchen hands
  10. Online education specialists
  11. Pickers and packers
  12. Pool cleaners
  13. Support coordinators and workers (NDIS context)
  14. Team leaders with many different industry applications

Industry sectors impacted (i.e. booming and/or employing for growth) more than most are:

  1. Aged care
  2. Agriculture and horticulture
  3. Allied health
  4. Building and construction
  5. Commercial and domestic cleaning
  6. Contact and data centres
  7. Cyber security
  8. Defence
  9. Disability
  10. Employment services
  11. Functions and weddings
  12. Health
  13. Hospitality

Apprenticeship openings are very high and this means that young people in particular, are in demand but there is much to understand about the millennial workforce.

To attract this younger workforce, then work needs to be fundamentally aligned with values, where flexible work is the norm and it supports the lifestyle you want.  Questions include - does this job fit it, have travel or something else you find inspirational and interesting, as well as career development opportunities beyond the step above, and is it family friendly?

Sectors that need your support are:

  • Arts and Creative including Film (this means going out again, not just Netflix and Chill 😊)
  • Tourism and Experiences
  • Wine (cellar door plus domestic sales and export markets beyond China)

Emerging opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship include the care sector; energy – gas, hydrogen, solar; events and festivals exporting capability developed from running COVID safe experiences; space and defence; and subscription models for anything and everything, for example the RAA’s new car subscription service.

And whilst this situation might be new, it is far from unforeseen.

In fact, over the past many years I’ve written blogs on the reprioritisation of jobs and employment, future proofing the apprenticeship system, the need for a national vision for VET in Australia and lack of skills – supply and demand mismatch.

So, what have you been observing in your industry sector, location and/or profession?  Do you think that unemployment feels much lower and what would you suggest could be implemented?

Please post your comments or reach out via wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au, thank you.

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