You have the qualifications, experience and skills, so why is it so hard to find a job in Australia? When you have been looking for an extended period of time, but are unable to land a job, you may find yourself asking “Why won’t someone give me a chance?” In a tough employment market, it can be a struggle to stay optimistic about your job search.
But it’s often not your fault that you can’t get a job. The competition is real. There’s a high number of people looking for work, and with so many people applying for roles the odds of you securing an offer are shorter.
So how come there are so many people looking for work these days? It’s because the Australian economy is not producing enough jobs anymore, and the reasons why are listed below. Unfortunately, these reasons are unlikely to change any time soon and will continue to make it hard to find a job.
1. Slowdown in employment growth
In the past it was easy to find work. So where have all the jobs gone?
Since the end of the mining boom, Australia’s economy has not fared well and as a consequence many people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. About 1.8 million Australians are looking for more work or some work. And they’re not able to find it.
The past year was the worst for job creation since 2013. According to recently released figures from the ABS, the average monthly gain in employment for the past year was around 7,100 per month. This is around 1/3 less than in 2015. For the calendar year annual employment growth reduced to just 0.9 per cent compared to 2.5 per cent in 2015. The end of the mining boom has continued to impact the economy.
To secure one of these scarce opportunities, people have to apply for more roles than they did before. It also typically takes longer to find employment. Employers have a much bigger candidate pool to select from, and will demand more from potential employees.
2. Less full time jobs
The economy is creating more part-time, casual or subcontracted jobs. The number of part-time positions (classified as between one hour and 35 hours per week) in 2016 increased by 126,000. This compares to a reduction in full-time (classified as over 35 hours per week) jobs of 34,000.
The most common type of work used to be full-time work. However, a changing economy, deregulation and globalisation have seen the nature of the Australian labour force adapt drastically in a very short time. In the late 1970s, eight in 10 workers had full-time jobs. Today, only about 65 per cent of workers are classified as being in full-time roles.
An ever growing rate of part-time employment has some advantages. For some part-time work means flexibility, especially if they have other jobs or responsibilities (like parenting or study). But research shows it can also mean lower wages, less job security and fewer career opportunities than full-time roles.
Speaking last year, Treasurer Scott Morrison said the rise of part-time work was good for workers and for employers. “A job is a job, and more jobs is always a good thing.” This ignores how part-time work is impacting the economy. The average full-time worker works just over 39 hours per week and the average part-time worker clocks up 17 hours per week. The total number of hours worked in Australia increased by just 0.4 per cent but the population increased by 1.4 per cent, so hours worked per capita is just 85 per month. This is lower than during the GFC and the tech wreck of the early 2000s. Only the recession ‘we had to have’ in the early 90s was worse.
3. Lack of opportunities in regional areas
Those jobs that are being created are predominantly part-time and in Sydney and Melbourne. In regional areas of NSW and Victoria and the other states and territories employment growth is much slower with WA and Queensland being the worst performing states. However figures also show weakness in terms of their economies even in NSW and Victoria.
A large number of employees are ‘under-employed’. Over one million people are employed on a part-time basis but looking for more hours. On average these under-employed people are looking for another two days per week.
As a result, some employers have a large part-time work force where there is capacity to increase people’s hours. This means they can avoid creating new positions, hiring more staff or incentivising existing staff with higher wages. This is a good way for businesses to contain costs but means the workers work fewer hours than they would like.
Until much of this capacity is utilised it is also unlikely that wages (and your next pay rise if you’re currently in a job) will increase significantly.
5. Machines, not people
As a result of technological advances, the modern workforce needs fewer workers. High tech jobs require only a fraction of workers that once did those same jobs. One robot or computer can do the work that a hundred or more employees used to perform. With society becoming more automated, it needs less manual labour and some jobs will even become obsolete.
While automation is eliminating many jobs once done by people, new technology is not creating an equal number of well-paying jobs to make up those losses. A 2014 Oxford study found the number of US workers finding employment in new industries has been low – in 2010, only 0.5 percent of employees were employed in industries that came into existence after 2000.
What the figures don’t tell you
Because of the increase in population of 1.4 per cent, the Australian economy needs to create over 15,000 jobs to stop the unemployment rate from increasing. With just over 7,000 jobs created a month over the year – a short fall of 8,000 positions – why hasn’t the unemployment rate increased?
The reason is that the participation rate has decreased more. More Australians are leaving the workforce, travelling, retiring, studying or just giving up on looking for employment, so the reported statistics are not including them.
The largest fall in the participation rate has been in WA and QLD where the decrease in investment in mining has been greatest. This indicates that more people in these locations are not included in the participation rate because they have given up looking for work.
There has also been an increase in people retiring. Around 5,000 a week are expected to retire between now and 2026.
What you can do to improve your chances
Have you come to the conclusion that it’s hard to find a job? There are things you can do to make a difference to your job search.