Australia’s economy has been riding on the biggest resources boom since the gold rush of the 1850s. Around $500 billion worth of investment projects helped the country canter through the GFC and its aftermath, as many other advanced economies languished or struggled. Comparatively, Australia has enjoyed great prosperity and, consequently, Australians have had jobs to go to. In 2011, around 30,000 new jobs alone were created.
However, 2013 is expected to bring the long-predicted rude awakening as the mining boom is tipped to peak. Glenn Stevens, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has advised that the mining boom could hit its zenith mid-year, while Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson announced the resources boom was already over back in August last year.
Recruiters and other industry players aren’t forecasting a rapid turn-around for the lacklustre performance of Australia’s job market late last year. What was considered a hiatus has become “the new normal”, insists Lincoln Crawley, managing director of the ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand. “We’re not predicting a bounce-back recovery like we had after the GFC.
Doing the double hat
Across the business landscape, downsizing has been prevalent. Job creation has been out of the question for many companies. Moreover, there’s a noticeable increase in “double-hatting”, that is when employers expect remaining staff to “absorb” the work or roles of others who have left or been made redundant, observes Crawley.
Phillip Guest, regional managing director of PageGroup Australia New Zealand, is seeing multinationals across the sectors increasingly looking to their Australian subsidiaries to make up for lagging revenue in other locations. He anticipates some improvement in the market towards the end of this year as many of the influential factors change. However, unknowns remain the looming leadership changes in China and possibly in Australia.
Retail down but not out
Despite the headlines, retail is also surprisingly strong in terms of opportunities for executives and smart marketers. New international entrants to the market – think luxury goods purveyors – are shaking up the local retail scene and bringing in new talent, says Guest.
The whole supply chain is now under pressure, concurs Crawley, who anticipates that logistics businesses will have to refocus to meet the needs of the rapid shift to online retail, creating job opportunities in transport and mega-warehousing. Likewise media, with its painful move from print to digital, is being impacted, but there’s an urgent quest for innovators, according to Guest.
The next big boom is in healthcare – which already employs around 1.3 million people in Australia – and in social assistance. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has earmarked these as the new hot sectors, with good reason. An ageing population and the growing promotion of services, such as “hospital in the home” and telehealth, mean “there will be plenty of need for support”, observes Crawley.
Healthcare will replace retail as the nation’s biggest employer – and other social services also may offer solutions for youth unemployment, currently running at almost three times the national unemployment average, he points out. Even research and development in some pharma applications are contenders. Such things are hard for mass-population countries, such as China, to get efficiencies and replicate,” he asserts.
Paramount is the need to be thinking globally, rather than nationally. In the Asian century, emerging economies, including the slowing but still reigning powerhouse China, are now undergoing “compressed development”. They are speeding through the typical economic stages of development from primary production to manufacturing into the service sector, with many already creating sophisticated high-tech products. While able to provide comparatively cheap labour – thus luring many jobs from Australia to offshore locations while becoming competitors to advanced economies.
There’s a clear message for individuals in the need to take ownership of their own career development in the current climate, Crawley believes, insisting: “2013 is a watershed year for individuals to take control of their own destiny… There are tertiary and vocational avenues to follow and in the workforce there are many avenues for them to cross-train into other areas.”
The prospects for HR professionals
The high demand for HR professionals with experience as change specialists is simply a sign of the times, says Marisa Luculano, manager of the HR team at recruiter Robert Walters. Employers are keenly seeking specialists in job redesign, with opportunities specifically emanating from global investment banks and the financial services industry more widely.
Talent management in HR will continue to see greater investment, confirm Luculano and Guest. Significant for retention of the most valued employers, talent managers are seen as key for addressing productivity issues within firms and for stopping the high cost of churn.