Why foreigner tradies will have to be brought into Australia to get houses built


The six figure a year tradie jobs Australia can’t fill as the country struggles to keep up with the demand of building new homes

  • New Australian house approvals during past year at highest level since 1989
  • Home owners rushed to qualify for the $15,000 HomeBuilder subsidies by April
  • CommSec said foreign tradesmen may have to be allowed to fill skills shortages 

Foreign tradesmen may have to be allowed into Australia to keep a lid on house building costs with construction salaries typically in the six figures.

Since the federal government introduced the HomeBuilder subsidy scheme in June last year, the number of new houses getting council approval has surged by 84 per cent.  

The year to April saw 140,222 new houses get the green light, the highest annual tally since early 1989, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed.

Many home owners rushed to meet the April 14 deadline for the $15,000 HomeBuilder subsidy. 

Foreign tradies may have to be allowed into Australia to keep a lid on house building costs with construction salaries typically in the six figures. CommSec chief economist Craig James said this was the way to fill construction skills shortages. Pictured are Sydney construction workers

Foreign tradies may have to be allowed into Australia to keep a lid on house building costs with construction salaries typically in the six figures. CommSec chief economist Craig James said this was the way to fill construction skills shortages. Pictured are Sydney construction workers

Australia looks set to remain closed to non-residents until at least mid-2022, locking out international students and many skilled migrants.

But CommSec chief economist Craig James said the Australian government may have to make an exception for foreign tradies.

‘Will all the houses be built? Anecdotes indicate that cost pressures continue to build and that labourers and skilled tradespeople are increasingly hard to find,’ he said.

‘If builders in the “hot” areas can’t find workers they may have to lift wages significantly or seek special approval from the federal government to bring in workers from abroad.

‘And that may mean paying the costs of airfares, quarantine costs and accommodation of foreign workers.’

Recruitment company Hays’s salary guide for 2021-22 showed six-figure salaries are common across the residential construction sector, with pay well above Australia’s average full-time salary of $89,000.

Since the federal government introduced the HomeBuilder subsidy scheme in June last year, the number of new houses getting council approval has surged by 84 per cent. The year to April saw 140,222 new houses get the green light, the highest annual tally since early 1989, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed. Pictured is an Adelaide house under construction

Since the federal government introduced the HomeBuilder subsidy scheme in June last year, the number of new houses getting council approval has surged by 84 per cent. The year to April saw 140,222 new houses get the green light, the highest annual tally since early 1989, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed. Pictured is an Adelaide house under construction

Since the federal government introduced the HomeBuilder subsidy scheme in June last year, the number of new houses getting council approval has surged by 84 per cent. The year to April saw 140,222 new houses get the green light, the highest annual tally since early 1989, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed. Pictured is an Adelaide house under construction

Construction managers in Sydney earn up to $220,000 while a foreman on a house building site can get up to $120,000.

Salaries are good even in regional New South Wales, with construction mangers making up to $170,000 with foremen getting up to $110,000.

‘As the country’s third largest industry, and one that is bolstered through government investment, Australia’s construction jobs market remains very active,’ the Hays report said. 

‘Naturally, demand is swelling for skilled construction professionals, with residential and infrastructure leading the way.’

A year on from the March 2020 Covid lockdowns, the number of advertised construction jobs has almost tripled, or surged by 181 per cent, data from the federal government's Nationals Skills Commission showed. Pictured is a woman on a Sydney building site

A year on from the March 2020 Covid lockdowns, the number of advertised construction jobs has almost tripled, or surged by 181 per cent, data from the federal government's Nationals Skills Commission showed. Pictured is a woman on a Sydney building site

A year on from the March 2020 Covid lockdowns, the number of advertised construction jobs has almost tripled, or surged by 181 per cent, data from the federal government’s Nationals Skills Commission showed. Pictured is a woman on a Sydney building site

A year on from the March 2020 Covid lockdowns, the number of advertised construction jobs has almost tripled, or surged by 181 per cent, data from the federal government’s Nationals Skills Commission showed.

That was significantly higher than 96.4 per cent increased in the year to March across the broader economy. 

A closer look at the ABS building approvals data showed a 66 per cent annual increase in new houses, compared with just 0.4 per cent for apartments.

New working-from-home arrangements are favouring house construction but not new unit developments, which had previously relied on international student tenants.

Recruitment company Hays's salary guide for 2021-22 showed six-figure salaries are common across the residential construction sector. Pictured is a construction worker in Sydney

Recruitment company Hays's salary guide for 2021-22 showed six-figure salaries are common across the residential construction sector. Pictured is a construction worker in Sydney

Recruitment company Hays’s salary guide for 2021-22 showed six-figure salaries are common across the residential construction sector. Pictured is a construction worker in Sydney

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