Good news for engineers, miners, healthcare workers, tech workers, financiers or tradies: these Australian workers are in the best position to ask their employers for a pay rise, top recruiters have said.
According to a suite of recruitment experts, workers in these industries are currently some of the most sought-after in Australia right now.
This is because Australia’s closed borders have squeezed the talent pool employers can pick from, making Aussie experts in these fields more in-demand, recruitment firm Robert Half director Nicole Gorton explained.
“Without the flow of foreign talent we have previously relied on to support the Australian professional labour force, this is resulting in severe skills shortages... that exceeds pre-pandemic candidate shortages,” she told Yahoo Finance.
Workers in the technology and finance sectors are particularly in demand, Gorton added, as businesses ramp up their digital transformation strategies and seek new commercial opportunities and revenue streams.
“Demand for new finance staff is strong across many industries including manufacturing, property and real estate, financial services, retail, fast-moving consumer goods, and media and advertising,” she said.
Specialists in this field with skills in business or financial analysis, compliance, financial planning, risk, and internal audit are the most difficult to find, she added.
“With limited supply and high demand in the market, these skillsets are well positioned to command highly competitive and even above-market salary offers from employers eager to secure their talent.”
And with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more companies to do their business online, IT workers are in demand, Gorton said, while consumer-packaged goods companies are looking to “virtualise” supply chains.
Hays’ Australia and New Zealand managing director Nick Deligiannis echoed Gorton’s sentiments and said that the tech sector, along with the mining sector, were experiencing high staffing demand as well as extensive talent shortages.
“In technology specifically, demand is highest for Cloud Engineers, DevOps Engineers and Site Reliability Engineers, as well as Data Scientists and Data Analysts,” he told Yahoo Finance.
Demand for cyber security professionals, full-stack developers and UX designers are outstripping supply, he added, with this imbalance “tipped in their favour”.
Meanwhile, mining engineers and underground engineers should know they are in good stead to ask for a pay rise, as are mine and exploration geologists, drillers, drill and blast engineers, dump truck operators, excavators and electricians, Deligiannis said.
Healthcare, an essential service industry that emerged as one of the most critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, is experiencing a shortage of nurses, aged care and disability workers, said Adecco Australia managing director Kelly Van Nelson.
“An ageing workforce and retention are key challenges the industry needs to face,” said Van Nelson. Healthcare workers with digital skills and familiarity with artificial intelligence will prepare them well for the future.
Meanwhile, more than $100 billion being poured into infrastructure projects across the nation is driving high demand for tradies and construction workers.
“Skilled workers within these industries are in a great position to seriously consider renegotiating their salary and asking for a pay rise,” said Van Nelson.
“I recommend that they do their research to get an understanding of the economy, market demand, employer conditions and the value you offer. This puts you in a stronger position to be able to successfully negotiate a pay rise.”
The contrary view: The skills shortage doesn’t exist
Thinktank Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work chief economist Jim Stanford said he rejected the narrative that Australia was experiencing “any general skills shortage”, pointing out that nearly 780,000 workers were currently unemployed and a further 1.1 million were underemployed.
“That’s almost 3 million Australians who want more work. That can’t be considered a ‘labour shortage’ in any meaningful sense. And the idea that we are lacking essential skills to run a modern economy is nonsense. Australians are better educated than they have ever been,” he said.
“We have heard a ramping up of loud complaints about ‘skills shortages’ from employers who are worried about their continued ability to recruit and retain labour at dirt-cheap prices, on a just-in-time insecure basis.”
The pandemic has exacerbated these fears by cutting off employers’ access to migrant labour, international students and backpackers. “So employers have been pushing back hard since early in the pandemic, wanting to recreate the conditions whereby they can successfully employ people for low wages, with little security in hours or rosters, Stanford said.
“It is not remotely true that Australia faces a shortage of labour, nor (other than a few very specialised occupations) a shortage of skilled labour. What we have is a shortage of advance planning on the part of employers, who think they can meet their staffing needs through short-term fixes rather than long-term labour force development.”
In and of themselves, shortages will also not spark wage growth out of sheer supply-and demand forces, either, he added; the Government will have to step in.
“Economists have been waiting in vain for that to happen for the better part of a decade. Wages will only pick up because we take deliberate measures to support wages: like higher minimum wages, stronger collective bargaining, and governments which support wage growth instead of suppressing it among their own employees.”