I spend my
life recruiting middle to senior retail managers. Although retailing
employs almost 15% of the Oz workforce, it is an admittedly narrow
window. However, I can see four things causing skills shortages in my
area – and across the labour market – that are resulting in upward
pressure on salaries.

1. Half the baby boomers are now over 55 and leaving the workforce. Their rate of retirement will accelerate.

2.
About a decade ago, technical and trade education became unfashionable
and slowed or stopped. We have a growing shortage of tradies. In a few
years it will be almost impossible to get a plumber – particularly for
the less glamorous work.

3. The mining boom is sucking people west and putting significant upward pressure on wages.

4.
In-house skill development has been in decline in many industries,
creating a shortage of skilled employees in key areas. One example from
retailing is the role of merchandise planners, who work in retail
buying offices quantifying the orders for merchandise. They analyse,
plan and forecast and are critical to profitability. In the last couple
of years a serious shortage of good planners has meant that salaries
have jumped steeply, and we are now importing them from the UK and
South Africa. This type of shortage is replicated in other retail roles
and may be an unwanted consequence of deregulated trading hours. The
kids that once entered the industry now see it as a casual student job
that is OK until they get a real career. But they aren’t being trained
for retail careers.

In my industry roles have become much harder
to fill in the last 12-24 months as good candidates become more scarce.
These are small pointers to a larger labour market trend.

Supply
falling. Demand climbing. Salaries? You guessed it. And say what you
like about bananas and petrol; this must push inflation.

Peter Fray

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