Politics

Morrison opens the way to temporary worker return

With wages growth still at stagnation levels, Scott Morrison thinks it’s time to let temporary workers return to Australia, much to the delight of employers. But some workforce problems remain intractable.

(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

With wages growth still far below the levels the Reserve Bank wants to see, the Morrison government has opened the way to businesses to use temporary foreign labour to push slowly building wage pressures back down, in the hope 200,000 temporary visa holders enter the country between December 1 and July 2022. The government has nominated politically influential or sensitive sectors like mining, hospitality, construction and professional services as areas in which the demand for skilled workers is heavy.

Private sector wages growth in the September quarter was just 0.6%, and 2.4% for the year — the level it reached before the pandemic. Of the sectors Morrison nominated, professional services is the only sector that enjoyed what is by recent standards healthy growth — 1.3% in the quarter for the private sector, though it enjoyed similar growth at the end of 2020 before it slumped again earlier this year.

Hospitality (accommodation and food services) and construction wages grew at 1% in the quarter, which would have been par a decade ago under Labor; mining grew at just 0.4%, pretty much the same level it’s been stuck at for the last five years. Indeed, according to workforce data for the August quarter also published last week, mining shrank in size during that quarter.

Read more about the government’s plan to allow temporary workers back into the country…

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