Nation faces shortfall of 131,000 infrastructure workers

Australia’s public infrastructure, housing and energy plans are in danger of being sabotaged by a critical shortage of materials and skills, the national infrastructure advisory body says.

Adam Copp

As of October there was a shortage of 229,000 full time infrastructure workers and Australia faces a shortfall of up to 131,00 by 2024, Infrastructure Australia’s 2023 Infrastructure Market Capacity report says.

Engineers and scientists will continue to experience the largest of all shortages until mid-2024. Trades and labour shortages are growing at the fastest rate.

It’s the third year that Infrastructure Australia has reported significant labour shortages, with the report estimating the infrastructure workforce needs to grow by 127 per cent to meet demand.

CEO Adam Copp says construction activity and demand for materials, skills and labour is at a historic high, with a major public infrastructure pipeline of $230 billion over five years, on top of plans to build 1.2 million new homes and energy sector investment expected to grow at around four times current activity levels.

Growth hotspots

While overall demand for infrastructure has flattened compared to the previous year, the Murray, NSW Mid North Coast and Riverina regions, Central Queensland and the NT outback are set to experience ‘extraordinary growth’ over the next three to four years, the report says.

Meanwhile, “acute” quarry shortages are looming in Melbourne, the NSW Mid North Coast and South East Queensland and steel production if failing to meet demand.

Australia’s lack of domestic capability to supply building materials could result in cost overruns, delays and global supply chain risks, Mr Copp says.

“With so much construction activity underway, the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to source key building materials and workers – particularly engineers, skilled trades and labourers,” he said.

“A clear message in this year’s report is that limited access to local steel and cement, as well as localised shortages of quarry products is contributing to price uncertainty in the supply chain, leading to delays and cost overruns,” Mr Copp said.

The report contains 14 recommendations around demand management, boosting materials and workforce and improving productivity to ensure the long term sustainability of the construction sector.

That includes the development of a national workforce strategy and long term workforce planning in conjunction with industry to attract, retrain and upskill workers, including women.

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2 thoughts on “Nation faces shortfall of 131,000 infrastructure workers

  1. It’s not just the construction industry in the big cities that has shortages in skilled workers. Many small country towns also need more tradies. There has been a serious lack of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, concreters, roofers, etc. for several decades in most rural and regional towns, especially thosw with populations under 2,000. If you live in one of these towns and need a tradie, you are up for an obscene call-out fee before they even lift a hammer – often in excess of $600 as they need to travel several kilometres out from the nearest regional centre. So those travelling costs are added to the cost of the job. And it’s even worse for pensioners who can’t afford to pay those sorts of call-out fees. I know of some who are living in homes that are falling down around them, with large gaping holes in their rooves and front doors falling off because they can’t get the help they need to fix them. But still the Federal Government has decided to cut tradies out of the “fast track” visa scheme. Mr Albanese needs to visit some of these towns and look around before his government makes these kinds of decisions. Instead, there needs to be extra incentives in place to encourage migrants with trade certificates to move to these rural and regional towns as that is where they are really needed and there is plenty of work waiting for them.

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