Key Workforce Trends for Australia in 2018

Around the world, the way we recruit, manage and engage workers is changing, and Australia is no exception. With huge shifts in technology, an unpredictable political climate and moving employee attitudes, there’s never been a better time to understand the future state of work.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, 403,100 jobs were created in Australia last year, the biggest since 1994; however, experts say that wage growth is likely to be limited by a strong underemployment rate of 8.3%. Regions across Australia are mixed, with New South Wales and Victoria growing and Western Australia stagnating after the mining boom.

Experts call this a ‘VUCA’ environment – one of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. But with this instability comes opportunity – Australia remains one of the fastest growing wage growth and job creation regions in the world.

Below, we’ve outlined several of the key trends that are sweeping across Australia in 2018.

Workforce Trends: Demand for flexible working arrangements

This growing uncertainty is creating the need for more flexible workforce arrangements – such as casual, part-time and contract workers. Of these major workforce trends, this one is already well cemented in Australia, with a recent survey by Kelly OCG finding that 47% of hiring managers agree that workforce preferences are shifting away from traditional permanent full-time roles. There are two fundamental components to this shift – a change in employee mindset and a change in employer needs.

Employers are turning to contractors as a way to find highly-skilled specialists. This can be a cost-effective way of meeting resource needs for a fixed term project, or being able to scale the workforce up and down in busy and quiet periods. Employers are needing to embrace flexible working arrangements in an effort to lower costs, headcounts and talent needs. It’s absolutely essential for companies to get better at matching individuals to work opportunities while fostering a flexible working environment.

This trend is also beneficial for employees, who are increasingly seeking more flexibility and greater control over there working arrangements. By going into contracting, employees are getting more exposure and diversifying their experience across industries and job markets. Additionally, the rapid development of technology is giving them this flexibility – modern technology is giving contractors the ability to work from anywhere in the world, outside of traditional business hours.

Workforce Trends: Increasing gender diversity

As organisations start to become more flexible, age and gender diversity is becoming more common across Australia – in 2018, around 47% of all employed persons in Australia are women, with a 60.4% participation rate.

In part due to an increase in flexible workforce arrangements and an acceleration in technology, we’re now seeing many more mature and female workers enter the workforce across the region. To complement this trend, companies are increasing their initiatives to encourage participation and provide ways to overcome barriers to work – such as maternity leave and working from home.

This has had a positive impact on the way employers are accessing talent. According to Matthew De Zilva, Head of Sales and Strategic Accounts at Adecco, “What we’re seeing especially prevalent is the workforce diversity push across Australian businesses, regardless of industry sectors. Regularly sponsored from the very top of an organisation, such directive not only accelerates the breaking down of barriers, but also unearths businesses with an untapped goldmine of talent not immediately thought of. With businesses continuing acceptance to workforce flexibility, we see inclusiveness becoming a pleasing norm.”

Workforce Trends: Greater need for multiple skill sets

Finally, one of the most significant workforce trends across Australia is the need for specialists who cover a multitude of different skill sets.

This can range from ‘hard’ skills, such as information technology, STEM and analytics. And softer skills like customer service, emotional intelligence, people management and communication. Employers are increasingly looking for talent that can fill both of these requirements, and highly value employees with both technical and non-technical skills. This can include finance positions with a programming component, or website designers with experience in marketing.

Contractors, with their exposure to many different industries and across geographic locations, are well-suited to fill this gap, and will be in high demand for their expertise over the next two years.


Those are just some of the major workforce trends that we’ve seen develop over the last few years. What’s been your experience?