13th September 2021

Tackling the talent shortage resulting from closed borders and strict quarantine measures


More complex than border restrictions and quarantine

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, there is little doubt that talent shortages are hampering the economic recovery of Australia and many other developed economies right around the world. However, border restrictions and quarantine measures to control Covid are not the sole cause of worker shortages across the country.

As with so many pre-pandemic trends, Covid has amplified and accelerated matters. And, as would be expected, it is difficult to generalise because the situation is complex and has numerous contributory factors.

One simple fact is that many of the jobs that are going unfilled were suffering from shortages before the pandemic. The World Economic Forum identifies that in many cases, the jobs on offer simply do not appeal to potential applicants.

This invites fundamental questions about fairness, and the ways economies are constructed. It also begs the question of whether it is helpful to the working of the economy that people can net more money collecting benefits payments than working a full time job, especially at a time like this?

Given that many jobs on offer only pay minimum wage, another factor is that pay has stagnated while the cost of living continues to increase. One way to make jobs more attractive is to increase the rate of pay. But is that truly a silver bullet? And what side effects might it produce?

The issue of immigration is deeply decisive. There is no shortage of refugees and economic migrants. However, do they provide the skills and experience that may be needed?

Border controls for workers from overseas that hold Temporary Skills Shortages (subclass 482) and Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visas also exert an influence. Those that are stood down are able to remain. However, for those that are laid off and find themselves unemployed, there is the requirement to find another job within 60 days or leave the country. Government policy does accept that where circumstances prevent a worker returning to their home nation, they may be eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic event visa.

Australia is not alone in dealing with these issues. Such powerhouse economies as the US, Canada, France and the UK are all struggling with addressing the root causes of worker shortages. However, Australia may be unique in that one analysis suggests that the 30 year ‘economic miracle’ of continual growth may be something of a constructed myth.

Back to basics and the fundamentals of a good HR strategy

These macroeconomic issues remain beyond the control of recruiters and employers. Trade associations, employment and recruitment industry bodies, and captains of industry as influencers are best placed to co-ordinate with and bring pressure on the government to help solve the talent shortage.

For recruiters and employers, the immediate focus should be on the fundamental practices that support a good HR strategy.

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