Businesses raise fears of talent squeeze lasting for years

Trade unions, meanwhile, point out that unemployment and under-employment across much of Australia remain stubbornly high and want to see greater focus from the federal government and businesses on offering secure employment opportunities for local workers rather than falling back on foreign visa programs.

Liam O’Brien, acting secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said the business lobby’s push to increase temporary migration would “continue suffocating wages for working Australians”, who had “endured eight long years of stagnant wages growth under this government made worse by skyrocketing costs of living”.

“Ramping up temporary migration will only worsen the real employment crisis in Australia — the cancer of insecure work, which is hurting working people and holding back the national economic recovery,” he said.

The annual KPMG survey was conducted in November 2021 before the onset of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has driven daily cases across the country to record highs.

KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne said the Omicron wave, although severe, was likely to be “short and sharp”, meaning it would have a more benign impact on the macro-economy than previous COVID-19 waves including Delta.

“You will have a little bit of a ripple effect, but it won’t be the same as what we saw in the September quarter of last year or the June quarter of the year before,” Dr Rynne said.

Other longer-term concerns looming for business leaders in the next three to five years, according to the KPMG survey, were challenges surrounding adapting to a more digitised future including cyber vulnerability; the challenges and benefits presented by the trend towards greater remote-working; and developing strategies guiding their organisations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

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