As the election approaches I’ve found myself slowly switching off to the repetitive mantras of both major parties: the Liberals – economic management, national security and a fair go; versus Labour’s education, health and a fair go. However I thought it was a good time to reflect on what effect the outcome will have on the Australian IT jobs market.
I’ve recently attend presentations by Sun Super Chief Economist Brian Parker and HSBC’s Chief Economist Paul Bloxham. They both made the same point that Australia’s economy is far more likely to be affected by international factors (China/America Trade war, Trumpism, Brexit, European economic travails etc) than by the differences between our major parties economic policies.
So I’ll steer clear of any analysis of Bill and ScoMo’s economic credentials and focus specifically on the local factors that will directly affect the IT sector: skilled migration, labour law and innovation.
(Sadly I don’t have the time to analyse the minor parties and independents; a potpourri of racists, narcissists, idealists, extremists and the odd nugget of gold. They’ll certainly make for an interesting side show in a hung parliament.)
It appears that both parties have firmly embraced populism and cracking down on immigration is apparently a vote winner. For the tech sector many of these populist policies are largely irrelevant, as they are designed make it harder for lower paying sectors to gain access to immigrant workers, apparently freeing up jobs for locals whose jobs have otherwise been taken by new arrivals….hmmm.
For temporary migrants, Labour plans to increase the threshold for skilled migrants on temporary visas from $54,000 to $65,000, which shouldn’t have any dramatic effect on the tech sector.
On the other side, ScoMo (and team?) are promising to decrease the number of skilled migrants entering Australia. The current cap is 190,000 permanent visas per year and the new cap is 160,000 (though only 163,000 were issued last year). Of these, 23,000 visas will require the holder to live in a regional area for 3 years. With the vast majority of tech jobs being city based, I find it unlikely that many of these 23,000 will find gainful employment in the tech sector and thus we are likely to see less recent immigrants able to fill in-demand city based roles.
Also, I suggest it will be an unpleasant experience for a Full Stack Developer looking for work in Broken Hill….though the rent is likely to be cheaper.
Labour Hire Laws:
The Labour Party has stated ambitions to decrease the casualization of the workforce and has proposed some significant changes to the laws around on-hire labour (contractors/casuals). These include a same job same pay rule preventing paying labour hire workers less than permanent employer. This sounds sensible, however ensuring that all permanent employees in an organisation are not paid more than a contractor in the same role will be an onerous test to manage.
I envisage there will be instances where it is more difficult for permanent employees to gain pay rises due to the flow on effect for every contractor in that role. Additionally gaining visibility of all employees’ permanent salaries and ascertaining if they’re in the same role will be extremely difficult whether you’re a hiring manager, HR or an external recruiter.
There are also proposed changes regarding forced conversion from casual to permanent employment. The current government has given casuals the right to ask for permanent employment after a year (and we cannot reasonably refuse) however the Labour Party has upped the ante with increased rights for workers to challenge decisions and mooted a change to the definition of a casual employee – possibly eliminating long term casuals. As the majority of IT contractors are casuals this is likely to present some issues moving forward.
Any decrease in the ability to engage resources in a flexible manner is likely to inhibit businesses ability to meet rapidly changing priorities – certainly a concern in an increasingly volatile global context.
So are these a series of well-crafted policies timed perfectly to balance the demand and supply of tech resources? Or will it constrain supply further at a time when business are crying out for high quality staff, pushing rates and salaries to an unhealthy level and driving more jobs offshore?
Whilst we all have our different political opinions, I humbly suggest we can all unite in disgust at the lack of funding for technology and innovation by either party.
Labour has announced a National Centre of AI Excellence. They plan to fund it to the tune of $3m…. they’ll only just be able to afford a tent.
And I’ve scoured the Liberal Party website and the best they can come up with is some commentary on how well the NBN is going.
For what it’s worth, none of the policies I’ve mentioned are enough to swing my vote. Despite these issues concerning me, there are far more pressing concerns at both a national and global level.
Feel free to jump in with your thoughts and comments below.
PS we’ve launched out new website today, please check it out…www.balancerecruitment.com.au