Across the whole of Australia, businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry have been suffering from staff shortages for a number of years, and at present, the situation does not seem to be improving. While the problem is being addressed there is still so much more that needs to be done on both a local and national level. So why do we have this problem and what can be done to solve it?
Why the Staff Shortages?
While industries like mining and construction are often blamed for producing the staff shortages in the hospitality and tourism industries this is really only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, high rates of pay in construction and mining are having their effect, but when you analyse all of the reasons it is really a chicken and egg situation – the tourism industry has always been known for having lower rates of pay than many other sectors, so this drives workers to want to find industries where the pay is higher anyway.
Lower pay is not the only factor causing staff shortages though. A keynote session at the UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics in 2009 highlighted the Tourism Labour Market in the Asia Pacific Region, and eight factors were cited as impacting on supply and demand in Australia. Lower wages was top, while other factors included negative perceptions of the industry, both in terms of the working environment and career progression opportunities, especially amongst young people; High labour mobility within the industry; Strict immigration policy restricting the inflow of labour; and the recent resources boom coupled with low unemployment. So clearly there are many issues that need to be worked on.
What is Being Done?
Policies are being investigated or are being trialed already, for ways to bring more skilled and unskilled workers into Australia to work in the tourism industry; a new template Labour Agreement has just (January 2012) been developed, which it is hoped will improve employment prospects for the tourism industry, by setting a standard set of requirements specifically for businesses planning to recruit from overseas. This agreement would benefit the whole country, while there’s already a scheme in Broome Western Australia being piloted that involves bringing in workers from East Timor. If this pilot scheme is successful it is hoped that this will be expanded to other regions of the country too.
However, with a current shortage of 36,000 jobs in tourism, the industry really needs to work on improving the bad image that it has amongst workers, particularly young workers. Tourism Accommodation Australia will be reviewing the new template and looking at ways in which to improve these perceptions.
The Travel Industry Careers Association is also looking to address this issue as this not-for-profit organisation was set up specifically to help resolve the staff shortage problems.
So, efforts are being made, though a lot really must be done before tourism and hospitality in Australia can be fully back on track.