Skilled worker crisis fades as oversupply looms

The skills crisis that has hamstrung Australian business for more than five years appears to be all but over, with new data showing Australia may have an oversupply of up to 50,000 skilled workers by 2010.

 

The most recent Clarius Skills Index conducted by KPMG Econtech shows demand for skilled workers appears to have peaked in the final quarter of 2008, with chefs the only profession still in short supply.

The index shrank from 103.5 in the September quarter to 103.1 in the December quarter, indicating the gap between available positions and candidates contracted by 10,000 in the last three months of 2008.

For next year, Clarius says the job market will be oversupplied with between 35,000 and 50,000 skilled workers, on the assumption that unemployment will rise to 6.1%.

Given predictions that unemployment could go to 7% or higher, the oversupply forecast looks to be conservative.

Clarius chief operating officer Kim Quick is bracing for bad news.

“Keep in mind the timing – the quarter that’s just been released would have been measuring the start of our fairly significant downturn. It’s a snapshot of the next quarter, and that’ll be the most telling one.”

But he says the shortages are likely to be different across industries as the downturn effects sectors in different ways.

“There is a lack of uniformity across the categories. In some areas, skills shortages have softened while others have remained fairly high in terms of supply.

“Chefs for example are the top skills shortage (area), but we anticipate that with people not willing to spend more discretionary income, demand for chefs will soften.

“In the same light, four out of the top 10 shortages are related to the building and construction industry. You could anticipate that market will definitely become much tighter.”

Quick also says jobs in the accounting and auditing sector were in high demand during the end of 2008, as many firms hit trouble or put more focus on their finances. He also expects the healthcare sector will continue to have high demand for skilled workers.

“There’s always one or two dynamics happening underneath these reports, namely that there’s a lot less movement slipping out into new roles because it’s safer to stay in the same entity.”

 

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