Modia Minotaur

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Policy Circle: The Skills Shortage

The conservative commentator Peter Hartcher today argued that it is the skills shortage, not labour market regulation, that is the biggest problem facing the Australian economy. Not only will many small businesspeople tell you the same thing, but so too will many people, such as Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group, who are otherwise broadly supportive of the WorkChoices bill. And, as other recent research indicates, when it comes to skilled labour, those initiatives that do exist are far more likely to benefit men than women, who more regularly end up in casual jobs in unstable industries.

I recently attended my ten year high school reunion, where I met several people involved in skilled trades - electricians, plumbers, fitters and turners and the like - as soon as they heard that I was interested in politics, they asked me about the industrial relations changes. I said to them `But you're OK - the world's your oyster! You're a skilled tradesperson, everyone's clamouring for you!'

The response I got was quite disturbing. These three different people individually told me that because of the industrial relations changes, they were considering moving overseas, where they would not have to deal with the red tape that the new system would result in, and where they would be able to be better paid for their skills.

Whoa - now, it's not entirely unexpected - much the same thing happened after New Zealand's industrial relations reforms - but still, it's not good news.

The reason I've labelled this topic `Policy Circle' is: what's the answer? What will stop people going offshore and taking their skills with them? This is a serious problem, and the public policy solutions that have been offered so far, such as increasing the intake of skilled migrants - seem to be stopgap measures at best. Who has some ideas? Pop them in the comments and let's see what we can come up with. Who knows - if any party types come up with anything really good we could even consider sending it thisaway.


At 7:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a skilled tradesman, the Australia is my oyster. But as a Dad, i'm worried about my Son having to sit at a table and try to negotiate a deal with a much older, experienced manager.

At 4:42 pm, Anonymous Kate said...

I honestly don't know how to solve this problem, apart from more skilled migration. It's a tricky one indeed.

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