The labour market has experienced major disruption and while signs of recovery are emerging, uncertainty remains around when demand will pick up and what jobs will be most in demand.
Matching workers to jobs in this uncertain and evolving environment will require the ability to quickly identify skills needs and retrain people for jobs that are in demand.
More than ever, the focus on skilling and re-skilling displaced workers will be essential to the recovery of the jobs market and our economy.
Improved efforts on job matching and connecting job seekers with job opportunities through an increased focus on skills transferability and mid-career change will help get people back into jobs.
Identifying training options that can link to a variety of jobs provides a degree of insurance against uncertainty during such periods of rapid labour market change. New machine learning techniques, such as those used by the Jobs and Education Data Infrastructure project (JEDI, see 2.2) make this sort of analysis possible. These techniques can also identify additional training needed to open up new employment options for people seeking new jobs, and to identify pathways to new employment opportunities that take advantage of a job seeker’s existing skills.
Gradual recovery will require diverse support
Australia’s economy and jobs market will take time to rebound from the impacts of COVID-19 and will require varied support throughout the stages of economic recovery.
Businesses in some industries most severely affected by the restrictions, such as retail and hospitality, are gradually reopening and transitioning to new ways of working. However, many businesses in the arts and recreation are still on hold, while tourism and travel are likely to be significantly affected for some time yet. There is also evidence that the impacts are yet to flow through to some businesses. For example, construction (housing in particular) and manufacturing businesses are reporting fewer orders and projects in the pipeline9. That said, governments introducing or bringing forward infrastructure projects, and the new HomeBuilder program supporting jobs in the residential construction sector, will help the construction industry remain an important source of jobs for Australians now and into the future. Many businesses will need to continue to adapt their business models, approaches and ways of working. This may also include developing new products and services.
While there will be some significant changes in the jobs market, health care and social assistance will continue to be the largest employing industry across the country. Retail, accommodation and food services, education and training, and manufacturing industries will continue to provide many jobs, even if some of these jobs need to change to meet future needs. The professional and technology sector has shown resilience through the impacts of COVID-19 and there is evidence it could grow in importance and provide greater employment opportunities in the future. Overall, at the time of writing, there are some initial signs that business confidence and the jobs market may soon start to improve as a result of positive health outcomes, government assistance and the gradual easing of restrictions.
In the longer-term, Australia’s labour market recovery depends on many factors, including responses to future outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus, the demand for products and services, investment and broader global conditions.
9. Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s COVID-19 survey of businesses, 2020.