Job market tightening, loosening, tightening...

by Stephanie Zillman06 Feb 2012

New survey results have indicated an ‘overwhelming majority’ of chief financial officers (CFO) in Australia’s top-listed companies have no plans to increase staff numbers this year, and in fact expect employee numbers to drop. But amid a deluge of conflicting survey results from consultancy firms, a leading recruiter has warned employers that in the current economic uncertainty, employment outlooks are likely to change from month to month.

Steve Shepherd, group director Randstad and former president of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), said amid conflicting weekly data, the unresolved European debt crisis and a surprise improvement in the US employment statistics, a cautionary approach to hiring is advisable. “Amid the reports about the global economy, many employers sit here wondering about the effect it’s all going to have on us here in Australia, and many organisations have adopted a wait-and-see approach to hiring. [The outlook] is almost impossible to gauge, and it’s really a month-to-month outlook,” Shepherd said.

The latest survey findings from consultancy firm Deloitte showed that 84% of financial officers expected their employee numbers to drop or stay the same in the next 12 months. Yet another survey from Manpower indicated that not everyone at the boardroom table got the same memo – its most recent employment outlook survey (of more than 2,200 Australian employers) found:

  • 23% of employers predicted an increase in headcount
  • 10% expected a decrease
  • 65% forecasted no change

Nevertheless, Australia’s banking sector seems to have made a firm staffing decision as the biggest banks continue to move offshore. Finance Sector Union figures released in January showed National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking Group, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank collectively made 3,309 roles redundant in 2011. Last week saw further announcements by both Westpac and ANZ that jobs would be moved to India amid restructuring and to counter losses in revenue.

Bank of Queensland chief executive Stuart Grimshaw said that a reduction in headcounts has become regular headline material. However he said there were better ways of lifting earnings than shedding staff. "I don't think cutting costs is quite the answer. Cutting costs is actually a brutal way of putting more work on fewer people and that doesn't work for anyone – in fact, that's actually worse for an organisation. We don't believe taking a blunt axe to heads is the right way about it.”


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