January 4, 2022

NAB Behavioural Insights – Labour Shortages

Labour shortages through the eyes of Australian Business: How prevalent is it, expectations & how might it be resolved?

COVID-19 has been hugely disruptive to the labour markets of many economies. As Australia reopens following lockdowns across many parts of our country the issue of labour and skill shortages is once again receiving significant attention. But the scale and type of shortages remains poorly defined. In this special NAB Business Insight Report around 1,600 Australian businesses across a broad range of industries and sizes share their views on how prevalent the issue is today, their expectations for the next 12 months, and how they believe the issue can be solved. The survey was taken over the period 16 November to 13 December 2021.

Labour shortages occur when employers struggle to fill labour vacancies because of insufficient labour applying for the jobs. For many industries this is not a new issue, but has been exacerbated by the pandemic and in particular, closed state and international borders. While employment fell by around 330,000 over the most recent lockdown cycle a strong rebound is assured over the remainder of the year – it is possible that all those jobs and more will be regained by the end of December.

In some countries there is also evidence of some workers voluntarily quitting roles just as demand rises and economies reopen (the so-called “great-resignation”), but it remains unclear to what extent this is occurring in Australia. Labour shortages can be seasonal in industries like retail (particularly during the busy Christmas trading period) and agriculture, while other sectors are facing a lack of availability of more specialist skills or technical skills. That said, the issue appears to be much broader. Almost 4 in 10 Australian businesses believe labour shortages are having a “very significant” impact on their business, with little confidence the problem will be solved over the next 12 months.

Get all of the insights in NAB Behavioural Insights – Labour Shortages