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Navigating the labour shortage – look offshore

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read
Navigating the labour shortage – look offshore

In Australia, several factors have contributed to the stressful situation many employers face today. Borders slammed shut during the pandemic, and many of our overseas workforce returned home to ride it out. Some of those who did stay were not entitled to any government support or wage subsidies. Now, as there is a vast global competition for similar skills, coupled with a slow reopening of borders, many of those workers have found alternative employment or changed industries entirely.

In terms of local workers, many who worked in heavily pandemic-impacted industries like tourism and hospitality, which were shut down for extended periods, have decided not to return to that industry, leaving a massive hole. Companies often struggle to fill the gaps and continue their business as usual.

Since 2019, lots of people have also changed their priorities regarding work-life balance and how they see their careers slot into day-to-day life. It has led to the international phenomenon of the "the great resignation", where employees are looking for opportunities elsewhere, or "quiet quitting", where they are no longer prepared to go over and above, undertaking a bare minimum of work and leaving employers struggling with productivity issues.


I have seen a significant increase in distressed businesses that can't get back to BAU simply because they can't attract the talent they need. I recently hosted a Mackay Goodwin webinar with guest speakers WorkinAUS’ Kris Viner and Absolute Immigration's Jamie Lingham to unpack the issues and how to attract the right talent to your business.

Lingham told me that while some businesses can consider automating some functions or use offshore resources (such as call centers or IT), most jobs need human hands-on, on-shore participation: "You can't outsource cooking or healthcare overseas, and so it makes sense to look abroad for skilled migrants. Currently, everyone is advertising in the same places, like SEEK, and not attracting enough applicants. The reality is that everyone's fishing in the same little pond with the Australian labor market when they could be looking overseas for an ocean of talent.

"Bringing highly skilled and experienced people across could not only solve your immediate labour shortage needs, but can also bring someone with great skills and experience to the team to ultimately help your business thrive. There is a flow of benefits from bringing one key player in from overseas."

Something worth remembering is that even though you might consider casting your net overseas for workers, Australian businesses are also competing with other English-speaking countries for the same talent, so it's imperative your offering is competitive.

Since prospective employees hold all the cards, you need to target the right people with the right incentives. In some countries, especially those with high crime or conflict, our relatively safe lifestyle for families will be a draw card. It might be salary or even the lure of possible permanent residency in other situations.

But companies need to be mindful that it's not cheap to hire from overseas, and there are some onerous hoops to jump through. Fees can be $10,000 for companies that turnover more than $2 million a year. Similarly, there's a prescribed way to advertise, as Jamie Lingham explained: "Companies must show there are no suitable Australian candidates and must test the market by advertising for 28 days. However, they can concurrently advertise overseas. It's imperative not to sign contracts ahead of 28 days which is the crazy and frustrating part. Everybody knows there's a chronic skills shortage and that advertising will yield very few results if any, but we still have to go through it."

Domenic Calabretta is the managing director of Mackay Goodwin, one of Australia’s leading corporate advisory and restructuring firms.

Note from the editor: This article has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as advice (legal or otherwise).

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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