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Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia enjoyed nearly 30 years of sustained economic growth, with workforce participation at record highs and the Government in a strong fiscal position.1 As a result of this, the Australian economy and labour market were well placed to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrated resilience in the face of a major disruption.
As the economy continues to strengthen and moves from the recovery phase into expansion, it is important that workforce challenges are quickly identified and addressed. Challenges such as skills and labour shortages, regional mismatch and new ways of working were already emerging due to increasing globalisation, demographic changes, technological advances, and digitalisation. Many of these have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 disruption to business operations, trade, and labour mobility.
Over the medium to long-term, a strategic approach is required to ensure the labour force is better equipped and more responsive to industry needs and future economic opportunities. The objective of the National Workforce Strategy is to guide targeted action on workforce development across the economy and realise a new vision for Australia’s workforce through to 2027.
It is intended to be used by Australian Government agencies when developing sectoral or cross-sectoral workforce strategies, or other workforce measures. The National Workforce Strategy will ensure these strategies are built on a strong evidence base and are coordinated across agencies in line with broader Government priorities and actions. To support these objectives, the National Workforce Strategy articulates five principles to guide a coordinated and consistent approach across government:
- Use data to create transparency of the current and future workforce
- Equip Australians with in-demand skills and focus employment services on outcomes
- Remove barriers and disincentives to work
- Activate industry to design and drive change; and
- Target migration to fill skills and labour gaps
The National Workforce Strategy also sets out the Government’s workforce policy priorities through three key areas of focus:
- Increasing the workforce participation and economic security of women, Indigenous Australians, and people with disability
- Ensuring a skilled workforce is available to support critical sovereign capability; and
- Growing and supporting the care workforce to meet the needs of the ageing population and people with disability.
Industry continues to play a primary role in designing and driving the workforce changes they need, in promoting available jobs, and incentivising people to take them up. However, there is also a role for Government to help address critical or systemic issues with labour supply, or to provide support where there are opportunities to meet the broader objectives as expressed through the Strategy.
The National Workforce Strategy will be achieved through agency-led policy initiatives and sectoral workforce strategies consistent with the three areas of Government focus and the five principles. A National Workforce Taskforce will coordinate government effort and maintain a strong focus on measurement to track progress and drive accountability.
The Government will also continue to work with States and Territories, Industry, and business so that Australia can fill the estimated more than one million jobs needed in the next five years with a skilled, diverse, and productive workforce.