Demand for workers in hospitality and retail has surged in recent months, amid a labour shortage

Demand for workers in hospitality and retail has surged in recent months, amid a labour shortage
(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
  • Jobs boards and recruitment companies have recorded a surge in listings for retail and hospitality roles.
  • Recent data shows there were 55% more short-term jobs in retail and hospitality advertised than at the same time last year, as Australia’s two biggest cities reopen.
  • The labour shortage has prompted a rethink of NSW’s immigration program as industry groups more broadly call for action to help them fill their labour shortfall.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Job interviews in hospitality and retail have surged month-on-month, new data shows, as companies compete to fill up jobs as Australia reopens. 

Newly released research from global recruiting platform HireVue reveals that, between August and September, job interviews in the groceries sector increased by 100%, ahead of NSW and Victoria reaching the 70% vaccination rates required to reopen this month

As Australia’s two biggest cities come back to life following months of lockdowns, the sectors most reliant on overseas workers including the hospitality, retail and healthcare sectors have been gearing up for a hiring spree.

Tom Cornell, head of assessments at HireVue APAC said the spike in groceries hiring showed supermarkets had weathered the challenges of operating under lockdowns, including outbreaks that had forced thousands of workers to isolate. 

“The one hundred percent increase in interviews within the groceries industry is a positive sign that supermarkets will be able to cope with the post-lockdown transition to an in-store experience,” Cornell said. 

However evidence on the ground suggests competition will be fierce as months of international border closures have locked out the vast cohort of overseas workers that overwhelmingly fill roles in many of these sectors. 

In September Seek data showed a massive spike in the number of jobs advertised in sectors that were forced to stand down workers and decrease headcount due to stay-at-home orders in recent months. 

It found there were 55% more short-term jobs in retail and hospitality advertised than at the same time last year, with the employment marketplace reporting it had 20,000 casual jobs listed on the site and 5,000 of these based in NSW.

While roughly 280,000 workers lost their jobs or were stood down during August and September, along with a further 170,000 in October, ABS jobs vacancy data forecasts hundreds of thousands of these positions may remain unfilled.

More than half of these are within professional services, healthcare and social services, construction, retail trade, and hospitality and accommodation, ABS said. 

The shortfall has led to calls for a reassessment by NSW of its immigration stance as international borders reopen.

Chief executive of Business NSW Daniel Hunter said in early October the state needed to get its borders opened to attract skilled migrant workers to address the labour shortage.

“When we went into this lockdown, there was already a skilled migration shortage and a general labour shortage,” Hunter said.

“In Australia we rely on immigration and migration for short-term and long-term labour, so the key really is to get this bounce back,” he said. 

Romilly Madew, chief executive of Infrastructure Australia last week said migration would be needed to help fill a forecast 105,000 worker shortfall in the construction space.

Hunter also indicated he was confident by next year there would be a different immigration policy that would open up new opportunities for greater immigration, with Business NSW backing Premier Dominic Perrottet’s “Big NSW” plan, an ambitious opening of the state to immigration that diverges from its previous stance.

The premier has publicly supported calls by the state’s top bureaucrats to commit to a temporary five-year doubling of the pre-pandemic migration rate of around 200,000 a year. 

“We’re going to have a real discussion [about] catching up some of those numbers that we’ve lost during this pandemic,” Perrottet said at the time.