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Queensland's stretched labour market has a problem with men

Business

Queensland’s troubling lack of workers was in part the result of people, especially men, dropping out of the workforce, according to economist Pete Faulkner.

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His comments follow claims from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland that the state had effectively run out of workers and that the 54 per cent rise in job vacancies in the past year was impacting regional economies.

The CCIQ said a major factor was housing affordability and availability in regional areas. This had meant people who wanted to work outside the south east couldn’t because there was nowhere to live.

But Faulkner said there was still room for labour market expansion in Queensland despite the current unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent.

“If participation (the percentage of people in work or looking for work) returned to where it sat 12 years ago we could add another 75,000 to the labour force,” Faulkner said.

He said this applied particularly to males who had disproportionately dropped out of the workforce.  The high job vacancy rate could also be attributed, in part, to a skills mismatch.

“The jobs are out there but the people wanting work don’t have the required skills,” Faulkner said.

“We’ve also seen a clear move out of the labour force by males (while females have been joining) which could be something of a substitution effect within couples as well as a shift in the way people see work.”

The lack of skilled immigration had also been an issue.

“There’s no doubt that there is strong demand for more workers, but it’s also clear that in many places there is an obvious lack of people within the labour force to take those jobs,” he said.

“If we can get (male) people back into the labour force in greater numbers then that should help but we also need to make sure that our labour force is equipped with the skills we need.

“Once international borders reopen that should also help to alleviate at least some of the pressure.”

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