Shop registers are ringing and house prices rising as the Australian economy continues on its long road to recovery.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Monday he was optimistic about Australia’s economic prospects in 2021 – noting that $6 billion of income tax cuts had flown to workers over the past six months and 85 per cent of people who lost jobs last year had returned to work.
But the most up-to-date ABS data, from November 2020, shows that more than 942,000 Australians are still officially unemployed, and a further 1.3 million are working fewer hours than they would like to be.
So, where will the jobs come from in 2021?
Australia’s ageing population had boosted demand for healthcare workers well before the pandemic, but the arrival of COVID-19 only added to the worker shortage.
As a result, the National Skills Commission predicts the ‘health care and social assistance’ industry will experience rapid employment growth in 2021, and describes it as one of the nation’s most “resilient”.
The industry is already the nation’s largest and accounts for 14 per cent of the Australian workforce.
The top employing occupations are registered nurses and aged-care workers, with data released by the ABS on Wednesday showing jobs in health care accounted for 15 per cent of total job vacancies in November.
Randstad NSW state director Jo Jakobs told The New Daily the completed rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme had also “put a real spotlight on auxiliary workers like physios, occupational therapists and anybody who surrounds those areas”.
Her company ranks early childhood education as another care-giving industry with strong employment prospects.
Last year was a clear example of necessity giving birth to invention.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers who previously ignored the steady rise of online shopping were forced to build websites overnight to stay in business during lockdown.
And the switch to remote working forced companies to adopt new technologies to bolster cyber security and communicate with staff and clients.
These sweeping changes have added new roles to the ever-expanding list of technology-based opportunities, and are likely to have instilled permanent change within the economy.
Ms Jakobs said data analysts were in high demand as most companies extract information from customers and need people to make sense of it.
“When you get automation or technology, a lot of people see that as roles being taken away from them. But actually what it does is create higher-value roles,” she said.
Meanwhile, Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering said local talent could likely demand higher wages this year, as “skills shortages in this area may be exacerbated by lower-than-normal skilled migration”.
Mr Pickering said that demand for “highly educated workers showed clear signs of improvement in late 2020″.
“And there is no reason that won’t continue in 2021.”
Logistics, warehousing and retail
Forced to stay indoors, Australians flocked to online shopping sites in their droves this year.
National Australia Bank estimates we spent a whopping $42.2 billion in the 12 months to October 2020 – 41.2 per cent more than the year before. And Australia Post research shows 900,000 households shopped online for the first time ever.
In addition to creating opportunities for web designers and ecommerce experts, this trend has boosted demand for warehouse operatives and logistics specialists.
Massive government spending has also boosted physical retailing since restrictions were eased, with total retail turnover growing at its fastest annual rate since 2001 in the year to November.
As a result, shop assistants are in high demand for the time being, too.
“Retail hiring was particularly strong leading up to Christmas and retail spending has exceeded all expectations over the second half of 2020,” Mr Pickering said.
“That sets the retail sector up for a strong year, although many retailers will also need to navigate the end of JobKeeper and [tapering down of] JobSeeker.”
The employment prospects are much worse for sectors exposed to the high Australian dollar, such as manufacturing.
“Trade-exposed sectors in general may suffer due to the overall weak global recovery,” Mr Pickering said.
“The vaccine rollout globally could prove pivotal to hiring trends in Australia this year.”