ANZ, Qantas, Westpac, Australian Airlines, Alcoa, Billabong, Toyota, Pacific Brands, Macquarie Bank, Holden. The recent list of companies shedding jobs, under threat, or closing down seems endless and could easily be viewed as symptomatic of the ill health of the Australian economy.
Should we all now be fearful and anxious about the loss of our jobs or is there more to this picture of doom and gloom that the media and some commentators is busily painting?
Most importantly, what action can or should we take to secure our future employment?
Firstly, let’s take a closer look at the nature of these companies that have experienced substantial job loss. There is a long term downward trend within the Manufacturing industry (Toyota, Holden and Pacific brands) that represents a fundamental shift in Australia’s economic structure rather than a declining economy. The reasons for company closure (Australian Airlines, Billabong) are often complex and may have little to do with overall economic health. It has also recently been asserted that the much publicised job cuts amongst Australia’s banking sector is reflective of a drive to maintain profit levels that are unsustainable in today’s market and that the job cuts risk longer term profitability.
But do these job losses truly reflect the state of Australia’s economy? There is no doubt that certain sectors are doing it tough however the release of January employment statistics from the ABS, indicates a fall in Australia’s unemployment rate resulting from significantjobs growth. The recent Smart Company Blog Post includes data from the Employment Minister Bill Shorten that health services, micro businesses (especially online based), the service sector and businesses well placed to tap into consumer spending pattern changes are leading the employment charge. Several examples of large scale hires in construction and IT were quoted and mention made of Wesfarmers plans to boost its workforce in 2012.
Following the GFC, jobs growth has been strong. All states have experienced jobs growth. The highest percentage growth has been in WA, NT and QLD however the largest numbers of new jobs have occurred in NSW, VIC and QLD.
It’s important to remember as well that bad news sells papers and increases TV ratings, so there is a disproportionate amount of the gloom reported rather than the boom. We are well advised to take a wider and longer view as well if we are to secure our employment future.
Where will most jobs growth be over the longer term? Well most new jobs will be in a small number of industries. In fact almost 50% will be in Health Care and Social Assistance, Construction and Professional Scientific and Technical Services (specifically Architectural, Engineering and Technical Services, Legal and Accounting). However all industries (other than Manufacturing) will still experience growth.
It’s vital to appreciate too that the job market and the nature of employment has changed dramatically. Importantly:
- Technological change, labour market flexibility and economic reform have seen far fewer people in long term full-time employment
- Part time and casual employment has become the norm for many
- Alternatively many older workers are now self-employed or are contracting out their services.
So how can you prepare for possible job uncertainty in the future? There are a number of things that can be done.
1. People leaving school now can expect to have at least 9 different careers in their lifetime. It is vital that you also acknowledge and embrace substantial career change as part of your working life.
2. Incorporate flexibility into the structure of your work. You may need to work 2 or 3 part time jobs or look at short term jobs or volunteer work as a way to break into an industry.
3. You may need to be quite entrepreneurial in your approach. Consider getting an ABN and contract yourself out. Karalyn’s interview with a leading entrepreneur provides some useful insights.
4. Research where the jobs are and be prepared to move. There are good job opportunities in Regional Australia with significant job opportunities for skilled workers. The government offers training assistance and provides useful facts and figures about regional job markets.
5. Much growth will be in skilled areas. Look at reskilling yourself with further education. The pace of change both within an industry and in the broader job market means people that constantly update their skills will be the most in demand. There are useful resources available to identify what skilled occupations have shortages.
Finally can I suggest that you read Australian Jobs 2011 as it provides an invaluable resource for those who wish to be well informed about the Australian job markets. Jobs growth for the past 5 years is examined and most importantly it provides a detailed analysis of the future potential of Australia’s 19 industry groupings and regional employment areas. You will also find valuable information regarding training and education.
Job Outlook is also an indispensible tool for facts figures and forecasts of industry and occupation specific jobs growth.