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What this week's Job Summit means for you

Opposition center-left Labor Party lawmakers Chris Bowen, left, and Jim Chalmers on Friday, May 10, 2019, outline in Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, policy to reduce tax breaks for landlords and some shareholders which they argue would save 154 billion Australian dollars ($108 million) over the next decade. Australia's opposition party has promised to deliver bigger budget surpluses than the government if it wins elections next week, while the ruling coalition warns the policies would harm the economy. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)
The Job Summit will be host by Treasurer Jim Chalmers (right) in Canberra this week. (Source: Getty Images) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Representatives from business, trade union and community groups will gather in Canberra this week for a 2-day ‘Job Summit’, which is intended to address the current challenges in the Australian job market.

As indicated by the Issues paper for the Summit published in July, key areas discussion at the event will include keeping unemployment low, boosting job security and wages, and getting the balance right between overseas migration and training upskilling the workforce already here.

Although the Jobs Summit is unlikely to be the silver bullet that solves all these issues in one go, it’s a noble attempt by the new Government to bring the key stakeholders together to thrash out policy settings that they hope will deliver a fair outcome for Australian workers and businesses alike.


But what exactly will this all mean for the Australia’s working population?

Overseas migration to increase in short term

Yahoo Finance spoke with Charles Cameron, CEO of recruitment industry body RCSA ahead of the event, to find out what his organisation are predicting that the outcomes will be, as well as what both employers and job seekers are ideally looking for.

“The key thing employers are looking for is solutions to talent shortages, and this is likely to mean a short-term increase in skilled migration visas to alleviate this issue,” Cameron said.

With the numbers of skilled migrants entering Australia having dropped in recent years from a peak in 2013, many are tipping the Job Summit to agree an increase in the number of overseas migrants to fill the backlog of outstanding vacancies current in the market.

However, it’s not just the number of people being brought in that needs to be addressed, Cameron said.

“Visa processing times have blown out since the pandemic, and more needs to be invested in this area to ensure employers are able to secure overseas talent in the timeframes required,” he said.

With many businesses struggling to fill key roles within their organisations, getting the staff they require quickly once identified is becoming more urgent, making the timely processing of visas critical to the overall outcome.

Job training and upskilling on the rise

However, overseas migration is only part of the solution to Australia’s skills shortages, with training and development of existing staff another key component, Cameron said.

“Salaries are going up in some sectors, but many businesses are reacting to the talent shortages by upskilling and developing their existing staff rather than get into a bidding war for new ones,” he said.

As a result, any increase to skilled migration should be accompanied by incentives for employers to develop their existing staff, suggesting that this combination is likely to offer the best outcome for both workers and businesses alike.

With wage increases already in the pipeline as a result of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase to the minimum wage back in June, it’s unlikely that the summit outcomes will have much room to manoeuvre on workers’ pay, so training incentives may be the most likely benefit for most Australians.

Visa application form, passport and flag of Australia
Faster visa processing is required by businesses to alleviate skills shortages. (Source: Getty Images) (mirsad sarajlic via Getty Images)

Future industries in focus

Another goal of the summit is to look at how Australia can best approach some of the growth industries of the future, with renewable energy and the digital economy identified as two key growth sectors.

This could be is a critical juncture for these industries, with the Job Summit being the perfect opportunity to plan for growth and encourage innovation, Cameron said.

“We believe that future industries such as the digital economy and renewable energy will need to adopt a modern approach to the labour market to allow for innovation,” he said, going on to explain that moving away from work practices that discourage investment will be critical.

This view may be contrary to that of the trade union elements represented at the Summit, given their stated intention to represent job security for Australian workers.

As a result, it’s unlikely that significant progress will be made on the issue of industrial relations, which would be an opportunity missed in Cameron’s view.

Getting actionable outcomes from such a diverse set of stakeholders within such a short timeframe is the major challenge for all parties over the next few days in Canberra.

“Our concern is that, despite its good intentions, we are unlikely to see any outcomes from the Job Summit until 2023 at the earliest,” Cameron said.

Given the production of a white paper based on the suggestions of the summit is the next stage of the process according to Government documentation, it’s difficult to argue with his view.

In the meantime, Australians can expect to hear lots about training and development opportunities, and increases to skilled migration to address skills shortages, but very little in the way of tangible wage rises outside those already announced.

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