The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has called for an increase in the nation’s cap on overseas workers to help address widespread labor shortages.
The ACTU report released on Wednesday addressed considerations that needed to be made when increasing the cap on foreign workers, a problem now drawing attention across industry and government.
The report came following the Australian federal government’s decision made late last week to increase foreign workers intake from 160,000 to between 180,000 and 200,000.
The federal government agreed that the boost was necessary, but said it would be important to create a plan that doesn’t exploit foreign workers nor neglect the development of local skills.
“Our migration and skills systems are broken. This has resulted in the mass exploitation of temporary migrant workers and the neglect and decay of our skills training system,” said ACTU President Michele O’Neil.
On Wednesday, the Australian government announced the funding of 20,000 additional university places, citing the fact that 90 per cent of new jobs in the next five years will require a tertiary education.
As Australia has emerged from the pandemic, the nation’s unemployment rate has reached its lowest rate since 1974 at just 3.5 per cent.
According to an end of June report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), job vacancies now sit at 480,100, a number just under the number of people who are officially unemployed.
This has led to widespread labor shortages, most pronounced in hospitality, retail and service industries, which in the past had relied on a flow of foreign workers that was all but cut-off during the first two years of the pandemic.
A recent report from the National Bank of Australia found that four in 10 Australian small and medium businesses believed the labor shortage was having a “very significant impact on their businesses.”
“When I’m out talking with customers, the number one issue they continue to raise is labor shortages, and this is across all sectors, and all parts of the country”, said Andrew Irvine, Group Executive for the bank of Business and Private Banking.