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40% of businesses worried about long-term labour shortage

A special report from NAB into business confidence has found almost four in 10 Australian businesses believe labour shortages are having a “very significant” impact on their business, with little confidence the problem will be solved over the next 12 months.

40% of businesses worried about long-term labour shortage
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The report surveyed around 1,600 Australian businesses across a broad range of industries and sizes to share their views on how prevalent the issue of labour shortages is, their expectations for the next 12 months, and how they believe the issue can be solved. The survey was taken over the period 16 November to 13 December 2021.

While employment fell by around 330,000 over the most recent lockdown cycle, the report said a strong rebound is assured over the remainder of the year.

Western Australian businesses were the most concerned over labour shortages with 44 per cent of businesses saying they had been impacted by the crisis over the past three months and 43 per cent of respondents believe it will impact for the next 12 months.

Businesses in NSW and the ACT were not far behind, with 39 per cent worried about the shortages over the coming year. In Queensland the figure was also 39 per cent while Tasmanian businesses were less concerned (20 per cent).

The construction was under most pressure with 48 per cent of those surveyed saying labour shortages were having a big impact on their operations. Mining, manufacturing, personal services and accommodation came in next with 40 per cent.

Small businesses were faring better according to the report with 30 per cent saying they were finding it difficult to find staff, while 38 per cent of medium businesses and 39 per cent of large businesses said staff recruitment was difficult.

And it was trade workers (35 per cent) who were most in demand, followed by professionals (32 per cent).

The report stated that various solutions were being put forward with smaller operations citing that more traineeships (47 per cent) would help, while larger organisations (51 per cent) were pushing for the opening of state and international borders. The larger firms said the problem could be alleviated with higher wages being offered.

NAB chief executive Ross McEwan said bringing talent into Australia would be key to addressing the labour and skill shortages in the next 12 months.

“Australian businesses are facing significant skilled and unskilled labour shortages,” McEwan said.

“Almost every employer I talk to, from cafés, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing, is saying ‘we can’t get workers’.

“Data scientists, digital experts and technology skills are also in high demand right across the economy. At NAB, we’re doing a lot of work to retrain and invest in our workforce and we now have more than 2,000 colleagues who are certified cloud-computing practitioners.” 

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