Regional job vacancies hit an all time high but lack of workers leaves employers desperate


The demand for workers in regional Australia has hit an all-time high, surpassing the demand seen during the mining boom a decade ago, according to data from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

But finding people to fill those jobs isn't easy, with regional employers calling for desperately needed support.

RAI's chief economist Dr Kim Houghton said the easing of the drought and the handling of the pandemic had seen confidence in the regions accelerate, but a lack of skilled migration was hitting hard.

"It's a very strong recovery for jobs in regions," Dr Houghton said. 

"I think part of the reason that vacancies have jumped so much is that there isn't a pool of migrant workers to fill jobs in regions."

A middle-aged man in a grey suit, pink shirt and purple tie
Kim Houghton said the lack of skilled migration was a key factor in the number of regional job vacancies.(

ABC News: Greg Nelson


For employers like Cobargo publican David Allen, that was making life tough. 

"For whatever reason, our training systems and the number of young people or anyone coming through to be trained as a chef or a cook is not good."

"It's a really good community, it's a really good family feel and it's good money. There are just no rentals, we tried so hard." Ms Boys said. Sydney chef Jade Boys and her boyfriend worked at the Cobargo pub for four months, but couldn't find anywhere to live long term.

"We're moving in with my family in Sydney and hoping that there are more options there because it is bigger."

Calls for help

A pub courtyard full of people.
Since Cobargo was hit by bushfire in January, the pub has been the town's only source of takeaway food.(

Supplied: Cobargo Hotel


Mr Allen wants federal government support to help ease the problem. 

"I think, in the budget, looking at really quickly upscaling the quarantine facilities that we have, so we can bring in skilled workers," he said.

"And then obviously, looking at trying to upscale the accommodation in areas like ours."

Dr Houghton agreed getting workers back into the country was key.

"I think we need to start looking pretty cleverly out how we could fast track bringing in some skilled workers from overseas," he said.

"We know employers are desperate."

But he also said there needed to be a longer-term strategy, with more investment in regional TAFEs and post-school learning opportunities. 

"The real growth in demand is for skilled trades and professions, the real long-term solution to all this is growing a regional skills base," he said.

Michael McCormack speaks to the media in a courtyard at Parliament House
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says there'll be announcement for regional jobs in next week's budget.(

ABC News: Sean Davey


Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday hinted there'd be a raft of announcements for regional areas in next week's budget.

"We're investing in not just our regional capitals, but we're investing in regional communities right across Australia," Mr McCormack said.

"And next week's budget, we're going to do even more."

For Cobargo publican David Allen the investment can not come soon enough.

"We're running on empty, we're running on fumes and we can't keep going like we are without help."

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