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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday that as of February 21, overseas visitors will be welcomed back to Australia so long as they are fully vaccinated.

This will be the first time since 2020 that our borders have been open without significant restrictions and quarantine requirements. Aside from a few exempt countries, the current situation is that only Australian citizens, permanent residents, their family members and some vaccinated visa holders can travel to Australia. 

It’s big news for many industries hit hard by the pandemic. Those in the tourism sector will no doubt be feeling encouraged and hopeful, plus there are wide implications for those industries who have faced substantial skills shortages. 

The skills crisis

The disruptions and changes to the workforce caused by the pandemic have been unprecedented. Many Australian businesses had long relied on skilled foreign talent to fill positions and the pandemic saw a massive decline in the typical population growth from immigration.

There has not been the usual influx of skilled migrants, backpackers and students to fill a substantial number of casual jobs. Furthermore, industries such as hospitality, mining, agriculture and housing construction have been facing a critical labour shortage.

Seek reported a huge increase in jobs advertised, as well as the lowest level of applicants per ads since 2012. This has contributed to the creation of a ‘candidate market’ with many employees having more options and greater bargaining power

What’s the impact of the border re-opening for businesses?

  • The border reopening will allow companies to more readily hire overseas visa-holding workers, which should start to ease the pressure.
  • Many sectors will experience an alleviation to the candidate shortage they’ve faced.
  • We are witnessing the largest movement of talent in our lifetime. Business who are not prepared to be competitive and are slow to adapt will struggle to attract talent.
  • There is expected to be fierce competition for qualified talent in corporate epicentres such as New York, Singapore and London.
  • The pandemic has caused many employees to re-evaluate working conditions and establish what their priorities are in the workplace.
  • Skilled workers are now looking to negotiate workplace benefits that may not have been pre-pandemic standards, such as working remotely.
  • Many employers will need to revise their talent attraction incentives to align with the changed expectations of global talent.