The job shortage in Australia is hitting businesses hard, leaving employees overworked and exhausted. Some business owners have been forced to close for days at a time because they simply can’t get the staff. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 480,100 job vacancies in Australia. Since February 2022, that’s an increase of 13.8%.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said, “We have a national unemployment rate (of) 3.9%. The number of vacancies out there in the economy at the moment … is almost up to the same level as the unemployment number.” This is one of the reasons Mr McKellar urged the government to increase the migration rate to 200,000. The matter will be discussed at Labour’s job summit in Canberra on the 1st and 2nd of September.
Visa processing times are too slow
The Albanese government also needs to address the speed it is taking to process current visa applicants. Home Affairs released new figures stating 140,000 skilled workers were waiting for their visas to be approved, and for 90% of applicants who apply for the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa, there is a 15-month wait. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said, “We will leave no stone unturned in dealing with this urgent backlog … We are looking at every option to deploy more staff (but) this isn’t a job that someone can do straight away, it requires training.”
Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the migration system needs to move quickly. She explained, “Investment decisions for big projects or expansions can’t be put on hold indefinitely without Australians losing out on new jobs and new opportunities.” Alexi Boyd, CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, said, “Migrants are the backbone of the small business economy … We’ve got people who are in the process of having their visa sorted out; we’d like to see that happen faster. That’s something all industries are calling for.”
Although there is a clear need for a higher number of skilled migrants and for visa applications to be processed much quicker, there is also genuine concern for migrants’ rights. The Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said, “Our immigration system should provide opportunities for workers who want to build a better life for themselves and their families in this country, not facilitate systemic wage theft and exploitation.”
Recognition of the work to be done
With the economy in desperate need of a jump-start, Treasurer Jim Chalmers recognises the problems at hand. “Certainly, I think as we emerge from that period of COVID where the migration tap was largely turned off, that should be an opportunity to think about the best mix of migration as the program gathers speed again,” he said. Regarding visa processing times, Mr Chalmers said he understands people’s frustrations but said there was a lot of work happening behind the scenes, “There’s a huge backlog here. Anthony Albanese, myself and others have been involved. We recognise it’s a big challenge and we’re doing our best to fix it.”
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