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Our take on Australian Jobs 2021

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Australian Jobs 2021 was released last week, and I’ve spent the past couple of days going over it in detail. It’s not the first report of its kind, but the pandemic has changed just about every aspect of the labour market, and made any report written pre-2020 obsolete, so it’s great to get our hands on some new, updated data.

The report gives us a great overview of the state of the labour market in Australia right now, and provides some key insights into where we might head (pending any other major global developments).

Since the first lockdown in March last year, many of us have changed how we work. We’ve lost hours, gained hours, moved industries, and started new jobs, and come back A LOT quicker than we thought we would (in some areas, at least). Australian Jobs 2021 tells that story in the kind of detail us data nerds are looking for.

Let’s dive into the report:

 

Lockdowns are bad, but we bounce back (relatively) well

  • People lose work whenever we go into lockdown (no surprise there)
  • Once out of lockdown, more people find work quickly than we expected
  • Young people have been affected more than other groups

The data showed that initial drops in employment due to lockdowns have quickly been absorbed by a labour-hungry employment market that’s missing its usual overseas migration cohort.

Young people were hit worse than anyone else, and are particularly vulnerable during lockdowns, which is not surprising as they are often also employed in low-skill, entry-level roles, and lack the range of transferrable skills seen in older employees.

Youth employment has bounced back somewhat, but the figures are boosted somewhat artificially by a decline in the number of young international students. It remains to be seen how youth employment will trend as we open up borders.

 

Jobs by location

  • Health care workers are in demand pretty much everywhere, and for jobs in every skill level
  • People in cities have higher post-school qualifications on average
  • Around a third of people are employed part-time

As we saw pre-pandemic, some trends translate state boundaries, others are more localised. I recently published a round-up of growth industries by region, and the data in Australian jobs shows pretty much the same thing (I broke industries into region as well as state, which may be more useful for those outside of the capital cities).

Across the board, the jobs are in health care. People in cities tend to hold a higher level of qualification than in the regions, and around 20% of us work for ourselves. A similar number of us are casual employees (not entitled to paid leave).

When it comes to jobs across Australia, there are some interesting findings in the ABS’s Household Impacts of COVID-19 survey – you have to scroll to the bottom, but it’s worth it. They found that 36% of people aged 18 to 34 intend on studying in the near future, but haven’t started yet – that’s a lot of people who are putting off plans to study in the short term, but who value further education. Around half of all people who intended to study were keen to improve their employability.

I’m not wanting to get sidetracked, but the ABS also found that there’s been a huge leap in the number of people working from home – from 24% pre-pandemic to 37% in June 2021. Obviously, lockdowns have a role to play here (in June 2021, Victoria was under lockdown restrictions and 57% of people were working from home, vs. 30% everywhere else) but it will be interesting to see how this trend plays out in the long-term.

 

Jobs by Industry

Australian Jobs 2021 shows that the Top 5 Industries are continuing to dominate – over 50% of Australian workers are employed in one of these 5 industries:

  1. Health Care and Social Assistance
  2. Retail Trade
  3. Construction
  4. Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  5. Education and Training

I personally always find it interesting that they choose to list retail by itself, when it could be listed as part of a wider consumer group with other hospitality and customer service jobs, while Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services include a huge range of what we would normally consider to be individual career pathways (STEM research, architecture, engineering, law, accounting, advertising, management, veterinary services, even professional photographers, and more). Not all of these jobs are in demand, or employ large numbers of people.

Key takeaways from the Top 5 –

Health Care and Social Assistance

  • Over 50% have a degree, and 80% all-up have a post-school qualification
  • Almost 50% work part-time
  • Only 10% are self-employed

Retail Trade

  • Slow growth (or decline) until recently – probably due to increased local spending during lockdowns
  • 50% have no post-school qualification
  • 1 in 3 workers are under 25 years

Construction

  • Strong self-employment (35%)
  • Only around 1 in 10 workers holds a degree-level qualification, so there are lots of opportunities for workers without post-school qualifications
  • 1 in 3 employers use word-of-mouth recruitment (so you won’t find their jobs on Seek)

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

  • Most jobs are in the cities, and less than 1 in 5 jobs are regional
  • Over 4 in 5 hold a post-school qualification
  • Around a quarter of people are self-employed

Education and Training

  • Most people in this sector hold a post-school qualification
  • There are few self-employment opportunities, and only 6% work for themselves
  • Almost a quarter of workers are nearing retirement age

There’s a great infographic which summarises some of the key information from this section:

 

Jobs by Occupation

  • Human jobs are on the rise
  • High-skill jobs are in professional, technical areas
  • Lower-skill jobs are in hands-on caring roles (aged care, disability services, early childhood)

This section was really interesting, because it reinforces the theory that we’re moving away from routine, automatable jobs towards ‘human’ jobs. We put together a video on the future of work and human jobs – watch it here.

So managerial positions are on the rise, and the number of professional positions are growing, especially for accountants and IT professionals. We’re seeing growth in technician and trades jobs, especially for skilled roles such as electricians, although as machines and equipment are updated and improved there may be less demand for people to operate equipment, and more demand for people who can install, repair, and manage groups of highly complex equipment.

We’re also seeing a rise in the number of jobs for hands-on roles caring for others – these roles can’t be automated, and they’re often low skill, which means there are some good opportunities in healthcare and early childhood education, for example.

Some of the roles which have been growing are breaking the trend, and while this report showed strong recent growth, it is not certain that this will continue. For example, there is current demand for sales workers and clerical workers, but in recent years many of these roles have been automated.

 

Emerging Occupations

This section of the report looked at some of the roles which are relatively new but growing fast. There’s an info graphic with the main groups below.

When you break this down further, three key groups emerge –

  1. Technical roles (Data Engineers, Solar Installers, Dev ops Engineers)
  2. Data and analysis roles (UX Analysts, Logistics Analysts, Researchers)
  3. Supporting other people roles (Social Media Strategists, Agile Coaches, Respiratory Therapists)

All three of these groups require human skills which cannot be automated (at least, not in the next ten years).

The Second Half of Australian Jobs 2021

Once you get through the stats on where the jobs are, there’s a section on how to find a job in 2021. There aren’t a lot of surprises here, although suggesting that young people approach employers who aren’t advertising may lead to a lot of frustrated employers and school-leavers. Networking, on the other hand, can be powerful – almost a third of jobs are found through word-of-mouth. Targeted networking, where school leavers join events and groups which put them in front of multiple employers, can help young people connect with employers in a space where the employers are more receptive.

What employers are looking for

The report suggests that employers are looking for the ‘whole package’, which is great if you are the whole-package, not so great otherwise. They also point out that low-skill roles are easier to get without work experience, so starting low and working your way up may help you gain that vital work experience.

They also found that completing Year 12 is a minimum basic requirement for most employers – not completing Year 12 opens up questions about why, and when there are plenty of school leavers who have finished Year 12 it can be too easy for an employer to just look elsewhere.

 

Employers are more concerned about personal qualities than technical skills

Employers are aware that they can train someone to operate a piece of equipment, but that it’s much harder to train them to turn up on time, be reliable, and speak politely with customers.

 

In Summary  

Australian Jobs 2021 is a information-packed resource that can be really useful for those assisting young people (or anyone) to find a career pathway.

You can download the report here.

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