Australia’s labour shortage is tightening its grip across all industries, new analysis finds, as tradies become some of the most sought-after workers

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By John Buckley, Via Business Insider


  • Tradespeople have become some of the most sought after workers in Australia, accounting for 35% of the labour shortage.
  • By state, Western Australia is home to the highest number of businesses suffering from the skills shortage.
  • NAB CEO Ross McEwan said border reopenings will be key to offering a solution, while businesses want the government to encourage young people to take up trades.


Construction and mining sector executives want the government to encourage young people to take up trades, as the sectors begin to feel “significant” impacts of Australia’s labour shortage.

Labour analysis released by National Australia Bank on Tuesday found that about 40% of all Australian businesses are feeling Australia’s talent squeeze, with larger businesses hit hardest.

And tradespeople are among the most sought after. According to NAB, tradespeople now account for about 35% of the nation’s total workforce shortage.

In Tasmania, tradespeople make up 44% of the state’s total labour shortage, followed closely by Western Australia, where they account for 40% of the workforce crunch.

By state, though, Western Australia was found to have the highest number of businesses, roughly 44% across the state, to identify labour shortages as having a “significant” impact on their businesses over the last three months.

The western state also leads Australia in forecast labour shortages over the next 12 months, which is expected to sit at about 43.

After Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT come in second, with a projected shortage of 39%, tied with Queensland, followed by South Australia and the Northern Territory at 36%, and Tasmania, at 20%.

Ross McEwan, CEO at NAB, said bringing talent into Australia will be key to addressing the nation’s talent squeeze.

“Australian businesses are facing significant skilled and unskilled labour shortages. Almost every employer I talk to, from cafés, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing, is saying ‘we can’t get workers’,” McEwan said.

“Data scientists, digital experts and technology skills are also in high demand right across the economy. At NAB, we’re doing a lot of work to retrain and invest in our workforce and we now have more than 2,000 colleagues who are certified cloud-computing practitioners.

“To get the economy really firing we will need to bring people into Australia and make sure, as a nation, we’re building a skilled workforce for the future.”

Along with reopening borders and welcoming the return of migrants, businesses called on the government to consider a range of other measures to relieve labour pressure.

By industry, those solutions varied. In the mining sector, the overwhelming majority saw reopening state and international borders as the single most important release valve on the sector’s worker shortage, at 89% and 83% respectively.

Lifting the cap on migrant intake was also popular, accounting for 61% of responses, while improving working conditions accounted for about 50%, and removing COVID-19 vaccine mandates accounted for 28%.

In the construction sector, the focus is on increasing traineeship and apprenticeship intake, a sentiment shared by 63% of the sector’s leaders.

A smaller cohort of businesses suggested “other” solutions to the big four bank. Among them were making it more attractive to move to regional areas, and improving high education and professional succession.

It was also suggested that the federal government be pushed to relax industry-specific regulations and offer more certainty around COVID-19 restrictions, and reduce the income tax threshold for those on higher salaries.

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