Commissioner’s foreword

The shape of Australia's post COVID-19 workforce

Commissioner’s foreword

This second major report from the National Skills Commission (NSC) explores the nature of Australia’s labour market and skills recovery from the pandemic.

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on Australia’s labour market. That said, there are signs of recovery with the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force Survey figures showing employment rebounded strongly in October, increasing by 178,800 over the month (and by 648,500 since the trough in May). Despite that recovery, employment remains 223,100 below the level recorded in March (when Australia recorded its 100th case of COVID-19).

The NSC’s monitoring of internet vacancies and our employer surveys support the signs of recovery. However, recovery is uneven across age groups, industries and regions. For example, the jobs recovery in capital cities has tended to lag behind regional areas and young people remain disproportionally impacted.

To help understand the nature of the jobs recovery and what may lie ahead, the NSC has developed a framework that ranks occupations according to their resilience during COVID-19 and their likely recovery prospects. We have done this by combining data on employment growth expectations before COVID-19 with data relating to the employment experience of occupations during the pandemic and early indications of recovery. In this report, we show the top 20 most resilient occupations. We will also publish and update the full list on the Labour Market Information Portal website.

The NSC has also undertaken modelling to further help understand the nature of the jobs and skills recovery from COVID-19. The purpose of this modelling is to examine the impact on occupations, industries and skills as we move further through recovery. By examining a range of scenarios, we can see what might be common across different recovery paths and where the differences might lie.

Of course, the very nature of 2020 and the shock to the economy and labour market means that these exercises are undertaken in conditions of uncertainty. That uncertainty and the volatility in the data means that everything might not neatly align. Yet, it is precisely the volatility in the economy and the uncertainty about the skills needs of the economy as we move through recovery that make these sorts of exercises essential. It also means that forecasts, data and modelling must co-exist with judgement that turns data into knowledge and advice.

Ultimately, Australia’s recovery will depend on a range of factors like accessing a vaccine and avoiding additional waves of infection, as well as how the rest of the world responds to the pandemic. While some of these factors are out of our control, there is cause for cautious optimism – reflected in the recovery in employment. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian labour market – and opportunities for effective policy responses – we stand the best chance of getting more people back to work.

Adam Boyton
National Skills Commissioner