Australian businesses in Western Australia fear another major skills shortage will soon take hold in the territory’s economy as it emerges from recession, sparking calls for governments to relax restrictions on importing foreign workers.
According to an article recently published in the Australian, WA had the biggest drop in unemployment of all the states last month after more than 6000 people found work, and surveys show that consumer confidence in the former boom state has hit a four-year high.
But companies in some sectors, including mining, energy, hospitality, and tourism, say they cannot grow without foreign labour for skills that are unavailable locally.
Employers in the area said that the situation has been exacerbated by the recent tightening of the 457 temporary visa scheme.
Immigration experts told the Australian that the demand from WA companies for overseas labour was now stronger than at any time in the past four years and he predicted a skills shortage in the next few years.
Skills that were needed included drillers, petroleum operators, marine surveyors, and technicians, but these had all been removed at the federal level from eligibility for skilled migration.
Australian Industry Group WA manager Kristian Stratton said to the Australian that his members were starting to report difficulties finding skilled people in specific trades.
“We are also seeing more members inquiring about the use of labour agreements as they haven’t been able to source suitable candidates for key roles,” he said.
WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott called on the McGowan government to reconsider its decision to cut the number of occupations on the state’s skilled migration list from 178 to just 18.
“It is crucial that WA is adequately prepared for when our economy recovers, particularly in key sectors such as agribusiness, construction, defense, manufacturing, international education, energy, resources and tourism,” she said pointing to the fact that more migrants would be needed.
Australian Hotels Association West Australian chief executive Bradley Woods said he believed acute shortages in the hospitality sector would emerge in the next 12 months, especially given the looming addition of thousands of hotel beds and the opening of new restaurants and bars.