Barnett seeks more foreign workers

Premier Colin Barnett has warned that restrictions on foreign guest workers will have to be eased if Western Australia is to avoid another major skills shortage within two years.


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Surely our priority right now should be taking care of a rising unemployment rate? Mr Barnett, what about a strategy to train our own people to be employable in these projects and then open up a base systen where people entering the country may do so in support roles on non-skilled areas so we are raising the standard of skills and knowledge amongst Australian residents first?

When you use the phrase "labor shortage" or "skills shortage" you're speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay." That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence, the intellectually honest statement. If you start raising your wages and improving working conditions, and continue to do so, you'll solve your “shortage” and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon. Re: Shortage due to retirees: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, people entering retirement age are being forced to work well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce. Okay, fine. Some specialised jobs require training and/or certification, again, raise your wages and improve benefits! You’ll incentivize people to self-fund their education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to fund their own education. S

Suzy suggests the intent behind the phrase, "skills shortage", is actually, "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay." It is just as easily read as, "There is a labour shortage at the salary level Australian workers are willing to accept". A small, but profound, difference and perhaps more relevant given the Australian workforce historically has been one the most protected and highest paid in the world. Whether we like it or not, globalisation means comparative advantages gained through wages as a proportion of productivity will always rest outside Australia while the status quo continues.

If only the labour market were so simple, we could just keep increasing the price of labour - not that business would like that particularly. However, I suspect that the labour force is more complicated as the mobility of labour is limited and many people in advanced countries choose their industry and occupations and would find it difficult to change one or the other. Then there are the jobs that no one wants to do, simply increasing the rate of pay even above an affordable level for business is not going to change the perception of what is an attractive occupation with long term career goals! The recent soaring rates of pay in the mining sector had many knock-on effects across the economy and caused difficulties for a range of businesses big and small. Allowing foreign labour to even out the peaks and troughs in the labour market seems like a rationale response for a project-based economy.

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