What Difference Did The Jobs & Skills Summit Make For The Food Service Industry?

Industry Insights

The first thing worth noting is that almost all industries were independently represented at the Jobs & Skills Summit last week except the food and hospitality industries (represented by the AHA only).

We’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic and lack of support by the government. The COVID-19 exodus of migrants from Australia has left food and hospitality businesses hurting, without enough staff in Australia to plug the gaps. Consequently, we’ve seen mass food shortages and scarcity of items these last six months and businesses closing their doors as a result. 

With countless media stories on food shortages and staff shortages in the hospitality and food industry, I ask myself why these markets were not included in an Australian-wide dialogue that directly affects us. 

Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA), Australia’s peak body for restaurants, cafes and catering businesses, expressed public concern at the lack of representation from Australia’s hospitality industry at the Summit and we stand behind them. 

How can we resolve the jobs and skills crisis for the food and hospitality industries if there is not adequate representation of the interests of more than 55,000 restaurants, cafes and catering businesses across Australia at the summit?

Migration cap lifts

The hospitality and food industry were pushing for the migration cap to be lifted, to assist with staff shortages since the pandemic, and we’re pleased to see the government has delivered with the migration cap lifting to 195,000 this financial year.

Visa delays were a big problem for our industry, which saw 56,000 skilled workers who entered Australia last year waiting anywhere from six to 12 months. It’s good to see this was addressed by the Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil who stated a major review of the migration program would not ‘drag on’ and allocated $36 million to clearing the backlog.

The hospitality industry needs staff now, so any delay on the delivery of these promises will negatively impact businesses and the industry as a whole. 

‘Most of our problems can be solved by tech’ 

Tesla chairwoman Robyn Denholm’s comments regarding ‘most of our problems being solved by technology’ while accurate fail to outline the complexities surrounding this. 

As a founder of a tech company, I wholeheartedly embrace any initiatives which further digitise business and outdated industries. However, I’m also realistic that it is not an overnight fix. The purpose of this summit is to understand how to solve the jobs and skills crisis, which involves attracting more people to the tech industry. Whilst technology can solve many problems, we need innovators and creators in the industry first who can develop these solutions. 

As one of the fastest growing and biggest industries in the world, greater education, government support and initiatives must be created to build a bigger and brighter tech industry. Likewise, greater representations of women in tech is absolutely essential, as we work towards attracting new people and ideas to this industry. 

Women in the workforce

It was encouraging to see so much conversation surrounding women in the workforce at the summit. Unfortunately, in both tech and food/hospitality women are severely underrepresented and this needs to change. Despite making up the majority of the hospitality workforce, women are vastly under-represented in positions of leadership with only 9.8% of women in leadership positions in hospitality in Australia. If we can improve childcare funding for families and make it easier for women to work, we will unlock boundless potential for all industries. 

Australia’s paid parental leave second-worst in developed world

In Australia carers are not incentivised to go back to work after having a child. They have to pay for childcare which takes the majority of their pay and deal with industries which provide little flexibility for families. 

Australian families across the board are struggling with interest rates, inflation, cost of food and child care. We need to see greater support surrounding childcare funding so that women are better incentivised and supported to return to work.

The hospitality and food industry is one of the worst for parents, with gruelling hours and shift work leading to few options for those with families. A willing workforce exists that include parents of young children who cannot take on hospitality or food jobs because of a lack of appropriate childcare and workplace understanding

Australia is significantly behind many countries in the world when it comes to this and it’s essential this changes. Whilst it’s great to see this addressed at the Summit, we need to see tangible change not just talk. 

In a nutshell, the Summit somewhat delivered on the industry's demands (migration cap lifts, faster visa processing times, more TAFE training) and as a leader in tech I'm glad to see more budget allocated to the digitalisation of small businesses but these measures will do little to help our suppliers and food manufacturers who need 172,000 workers in the food supply chain alone according to the AACS.


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