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Australia borders have reopened — how will this affect jobs?

Over the last two years, the lack of international arrivals, paired with strong market growth, has helped to create a talent drought in digital, PR, marketing and advertising. IAB Australia’s CEO Gai Le Roy hasn’t seen such high “demand for talent” during her two decades working in Australia’s digital advertising industry.

Talent has the upper hand, right now: with the country’s unemployment rate at its lowest in more than a decade, there’s never been a better time to ask for more, whether that’s work-life balance or a pay increase. And talent has been doing just that, receiving major pay raises or leaving for greener pastures.

With the borders reopening, though, will that all come to an end?

Looking forward

Probably not. 

Employment rates and migration are linked, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. The effects of the pandemic on Australia’s economy are far more complicated than a simple one-to-one: no British talent coming in, so more adland jobs for Australians.

The lack of Brits made the talent drought more severe, but it didn’t create it. Low pay, long hours and a lack of career progression all heavily contributed

It’s not that there’s no talent. It’s that they’re fed up, across the world. The British don’t want to work long hours for little payoff anymore than Australians do.

Pairing that with “strong market growth…and the entry of new large global organisations into the local market” in Australia, talent has been given real power that migration isn’t taking. 

Even if migration was the only factor that decided employment rates and salaries, it wouldn’t change things in the near future. “Competition for talent is at a fever pitch and the shortfall of skilled migration over the past two years will take at least the same amount of time to recover, if not more,” according to Andrew Brushfield, a director of recruitment firm Robert Half. His view is echoed by others

Which is great news for Australians: they still have bargaining power. But what do employers do, heading into the future, if open borders aren’t their answer?

How do we fix the problem?

Solutions for the talent drought shouldn’t focus on international hires. We should be looking to grow potential talent at home!  We don’t want a short-term bandaid: we need a proper solution that stops this from happening again. What we’re seeing wasn’t caused by the pandemic: COVID just expedited a decades’ long problem

That means attracting talent and keeping them through better pay, less hours, better culture and true flexibility, alongside other efforts like supporting working parents (particularly mothers). 

It also means growing potential talent pools. As Mark Frain, Foxtel’s CEO has said, “this means looking further than the confines of our traditional competitive set when hiring…We need new ideas from a diverse and varied set of backgrounds…”

We also need to focus on upskilling. As the industry stands, a major weakness is its lack of training and development. Right now, there’s a gap in talent for mid-weight skilled roles. As it stands, junior employees often lack the time to properly grow their knowledge and technical abilities; they are too busy just trying to keep up. If this isn’t fixed, that hiring gap isn’t going to fix itself. 

The industry needs to focus on training and growing the employees it has, rather than creating a culture of burnout that only increases the shortage.

We need to look towards efforts like IAB’s Talent and Careers Working Group, which is working to develop existing talent. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we haven’t invested enough in our home-grown talent, offering them the reason to come and stay. 

If the industry wants the talent drought to end, it can’t rely on open borders.