Prior to the pandemic, the hospitality industry routinely used immigrants to fill job openings. Hospitality businesses are struggling to meet labour demands since many workers were forced to return home when the gates closed, and there is a significant backlog in visa processing.
In fact, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 51 per cent of hotel businesses report difficulty recruiting suitable personnel.
A new report from the leading shift work platform, Deputy, The Big Shift: The Changing Landscape of Australian Hospitality, reveals insights into how the hospitality industry is coping more than two years after the pandemic began, amid widespread labour shortages and supply chain disruptions.
Shift workers working multiple jobs and longer hours
Many people have taken up jobs across numerous hospitality businesses as labour shortages plague the industry. In the Deputy platform, the proportion of shift workers who worked multiple jobs in the hospitality industry peaked in July 2022 at just under 3 per cent. In addition, shift employees are working greater hours than they did on average before the pandemic or during high holiday and shopping seasons (such as Christmas), when shift workers’ hours typically peak.
According to Shashi Karunanethy, an independent labour economist, this can be attributed to the casualisation of work and increased job opportunities in the gig economy. At the same time, many workers may be compelled to expand their share of shift work in order to keep up with rising living costs, with the percentage of shift workers working multiple jobs rising in lockstep with inflation rates.
Major states hardest hit by labour shortages
According to the data, this is especially noticeable in big areas like Victoria and New South Wales, where employers are rostering 30 per cent less shift work hours than before the outbreak. Karunanethy explains this to the presence of big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, which are hubs for education and business and hence attract more international students and overseas workers who work in hospitality.
States that rely less on these people, such as Western Australia, have had the fastest rebound. However, these nations are not immune to labour shortages and continue to roster 10 per cent fewer shift work hours than before the outbreak.
Recovery across different hospitality businesses
Accommodations and sit-down restaurants experienced the greatest job gains and recoveries through 2022, with shift work hours increasing by 50 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Given that many Australians have avoided overseas travel, Karunanethy says they are turning to staycations and dining experiences to meet their experiential needs. On the other hand, bars and fast food outlets continue to struggle with labour shortages.
To present, bars continue to employ 20 per cent fewer shift workers than before the pandemic. With growing price pressures from food and alcohol suppliers and problems moving to new revenue potential in takeaway and delivery services, the sector is experiencing a slew of challenges.
While food establishments are booking 40percent fewer hours than before the pandemic, this is mostly due to the industry’s adoption of food delivery models and labour-replacing technologies, resulting in fewer total shift work hours.
Victorian fast food outlets showed the greatest decrease in shift work hours of any state. Consumer spending behaviours in the drive-through and in-app delivery purchases have now become maintained habits in the state that have been subjected to the most stay-at-home regulations.
A significant barrier for women employees
The centrepiece reform to increase women’s labour market participation is universal daycare, with one in four potential workers citing childcare as the primary barrier to employment. As Baby Boomers and Generation X also take on childcare obligations, childcare policy will also impact older employees’ capacity to enter labour.
In the entire sector, women now make up 48 per cent of shift work hours, up from 47 per cent in 2020. Since women now work the bulk of shift work hours, cafes and coffee shops had the biggest growth for female shift employees (4 per cent).
For more information and additional findings, access the full report here.