Election 2022: Jobs, the skills shortage, and how the Coalition and Labor plan to win your vote

Source: Mick Tsikas / Bianca De Marchi / AAP Image

Ahead of the federal election on May 21, SmartCompany is breaking down the key issues facing Australia’s small business community. Today we’re looking at what the Coalition and Labor have to say about jobs and skills.

What’s going on?

Businesses small and large, particularly in the hospitality and business services industries, say it’s hard to find qualified staff. Some employers are lifting their wages to attract and retain talent. More broadly, Australia needs to prepare for an increasingly digital future, with the skills mix to match.

Why is it an issue?

A two-year pause of Australia’s migration scheme left significant gaps in the nation’s skills mix. Companies seeking specialist talent overseas have struggled to find the right staff, as have smaller businesses which usually turn to working holiday-maker or students. Those shortages are constraining growth.

More broadly, experts say Australia must rapidly upgrade its digital capabilities to compete globally, and train a tech-focused workforce to seize those new opportunities.

What are the parties doing about it?

Jobs and skills are an integral part of this election cycle. Just ask Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who yesterday failed to recite the current unemployment rate (4%, for those playing along at home).

For its part, the Coalition is chasing a 50-year-low unemployment rate, while boasting its economic management helped Australia rapidly recover from job losses linked to COVID-19 lockdowns.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham pledged a re-elected Coalition government would help deliver 1.3 million new jobs over the next five years, largely relying on measures already has in place.

In terms of new efforts: in its 2022-23 federal budget, the Morrison government unveiled a new, multi-billion-dollar plan to subsidise apprentice wages and provide trainees with cost-of-living support, in an effort to expand the nation’s skills base.

It also pledged a bonus 20% tax deduction for small businesses which purchase digital-adjacent training courses for employees.

Labor’s plan centres on a $1.2 billion education funding boost, making 465,000 TAFE places fee-free and expanding the number of supported university places.

The Opposition also wants to establish an ‘Australian Skills Guarantee’. Under that plan, one in 10 workers operating on large-scale government projects would be a trainee, apprentice, or cadet, supporting early-career Australians as they pursue a trade.

Anthony Albanese has also suggested offering permanent residency to overseas workers would provide them more certainty — and encourage them to keep their skills in Australia.

Labor also wants to cut the cost of childcare, allowing more parents to re-enter the workforce after starting a family. That plan would list the childcare subsidy to 90% for families earning less than $75,000, with the subsidy gradually diminishing to $0 for households earning over $500,000.

The Greens’ policy platform is focused on the renewable energy transition, and leader Adam Bandt has revealed a $19 billion pledge to help subsidise the wages of coal workers as they re-skill in greener industries.

What else should I know?

While some industry sectors are lifting wages to attract talent, overall wage growth is persistently sluggish.

A tight labour market is all well and good, and some workers are clearly benefiting from an increase in choice, but the next government will need to convince voters higher wages are in their future.

Of course, that burden also rests on employers. Perceptions of the next government could change quickly post-election if businesses are unwilling, or unable, to pass wage hikes to their employees.

In addition, the type of jobs created matters just as much as the number of new jobs.

Labor’s campaign focuses on insecure work undertaken by casuals and gig economy workers; last year, the party said it wanted to establish portable leave entitlements for labour hire and gig workers, potentially changing how modern businesses engage with their workforces.


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1 month ago

Yes we waiting for Ukrainian emigration ,Covet help AU government finish new infrastructure in major city’s.We just hav to hurry Putin to put more presser on Ukrainians to live that country .

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