The shape of Australia's post COVID-19 workforce


The impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian labour market have been unprecedented. However, there are now clear signs of recovery. And even in the industries and occupations most impacted by the shutdowns, jobs are returning.

With the unemployment rate remaining high there is, of course, clearly some way to go.

This report outlined different approaches to considering the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, the impacts on occupations and the likely skill needs as the economy continues to recover.

As we noted at the outset, 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 co-exist with a need for judgement that turns data into knowledge and advice.

Ultimately, the message from this report is that while there will undoubted be lasting changes as a result of COVID-19, these may not be as dramatic as might have been expected. The broad distribution of occupations across the economy may not, in fact, change that much. What might change, however, is how we do those jobs. Also, where we do see structural change, these are more likely to be changes that were already underway, such as increasing activity online and the ongoing need for post‑secondary qualifications.

Finally, the report also underscores the importance of education and training – of all types – in helping to shape Australia’s post COVID-19 workforce.