Counting the Cost of Labour Shortages

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Although shutting our borders to non-residents during the pandemic has helped suppress COVID-19 and enabled economic growth to beat expectations, 15 months on, these policies are now causing significant problems. Australian farmers have reported A$58.4m in crops lost because of labour shortages and upward pressures on labour costs since December, according to a National Crop Lost Register set up by farm lobby group Growcom.

Many industries advocate a relaxation of border and visa rules, even as the highly infectious Delta strain of coronavirus prompts authorities to tighten rules again. Easing border restrictions for business is politically tricky, with 34,000 Australians stranded overseas. Tougher flight caps have been imposed on arrivals, which halved the number of passengers allowed to enter the country to just over 3,000 a week. Health experts say that until immunisation rates increase substantially, authorities cannot reopen their borders with Australia’s Treasury forecasting that the international border will not reopen until mid-2022.

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