When JobKeeper came to an end, as it always had to at some point, there were fears of mass job losses. In reality, the unemployment rate decreased slightly from 5.7 per cent in March to 5.5 per cent in April.
Regardless, employment remains one of the most pressing issues for the Australian public. Many businesses and job candidates are still feeling the crunch; about three in ten businesses are still experiencing supply chain disruptions, and 64 per cent of businesses are being adversely impacted by COVID-safe controls.
Nevertheless, there’s good reason to be hopeful, partly because of our lesser-sung jobs heroes – small-business owners.
“Small and family businesses are the engine room of our economy,” Treasurer Frydenberg said in his budget speech. “They are at the heart of every local community.” He’s right – and here’s why.
- Small business accounts for more of Australia’s economy and jobs than most people realise
Businesses with less than 20 employees account for a huge swathe of Australia’s economy; they currently make up 98 per cent of Australian business and 35 per cent of Australia’s GDP. They change people’s lives; at MAX Solutions, 94 per cent of the customers we support in finding work find jobs through smaller local businesses.
- Many people seeking work look to big, familiar brands first, not realising what local heroes can offer
Despite the role small businesses play, people in the market for a job often look first to big names they’re familiar with – but many of those jobs have a long interview process and a backlog of thousands of applicants. While large employers will certainly play a key role in the recovery of the jobs market, small businesses collectively offer more jobs than Australia’s biggest employers put together.
- Small businesses look close to home for talent and community connections
Many small-business owners want to support local job candidates, as someone who lives nearby and knows the community can be an invaluable asset. Over the past year, our team at MAX has seen firsthand how challenging days during the COVID era reveal the extraordinary lengths small businesses will go to in order to support their community – including through providing local jobs, even when times are lean.
- Smaller can mean more nimble, benefiting employees with special requirements
Smaller businesses are often nimble enough to quickly make changes to accommodate someone who’s struggled with long-term challenges, such as a disability, a gap out of work, or extensive family commitments. Larger businesses occasionally struggle with barriers such as needing to make complex arrangements to roll out initiatives across multiple locations, requiring more time and resources than making a swift change at a single store or office.
- There’s often a hidden local job market, if you know where to look
Finding a job isn’t easy under most circumstances, but for proactive job candidates, local businesses often have job positions available that might not be listed on the big job-search sites. Small-business owners are often keen to find their newest employee through word-of-mouth or a trusted employment support partner who understands their business’s needs. In turn, small businesses need the right tools to flourish and support their communities – for instance, support to help train and prepare people for work, and sourcing local talent right for the job description.
It’s been a difficult and uncertain year, and the COVID era isn’t over just yet. Happily, one thing’s for certain – small businesses will be the unassuming, everyday heroes for people seeking work in the months to come as the Government seeks to raise our employment rate and help our businesses and our nation back into prosperity.