WE NEED WORKERS: Butcher’s Pantry Coffee and Takeaway owner Elisha Biel and Keely Mauch. Picture: Sam Turner
WE NEED WORKERS: Butcher’s Pantry Coffee and Takeaway owner Elisha Biel and Keely Mauch. Picture: Sam Turner

Dalby businesses struggling to hire despite huge unemployment rate

THE announcement of Queensland’s huge unemployment rate compared to the rest of Australia may have been surprising for some, but not for Butcher’s Pantry Coffee and Takeaway owner Elisa Biel.

Figures revealed the sunshine state had an unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent, the worst in Australia, with 209,000 people joining the jobless queues in September.

Australia’s unemployment rate sits at 6.9 per cent, while Victoria, which has been in lockdown since July, recorded a rate of 6.7 per cent.

Mrs Biel and her husband Rob opened their cafe and takeaway extension to Southside Quality Meats in 2018, being able to double their staff in the process.

They’ve been trying to hire casual employees recently, but believe Australia’s benefit payments have hindered potential workers from seeking jobs.

“I don’t know if it’s COVID-related or not, but people are more happier to sit at home unfortunately,” Mrs Biel said.

“I’m ready to employ anybody at the moment and give them a go because I need workers that can work the nights and weekends.

“I have staff that already work regular hours, but it seems like no one wants to apply.”

The Western Downs region had hundreds of people apply for Jobkeeper and Jobseeker subsidies during the pandemic. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
The Western Downs region had hundreds of people apply for Jobkeeper and Jobseeker subsidies during the pandemic. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

Her cafe was one of the lucky few businesses in the area that didn’t decline during coronavirus, meaning they haven’t applied for any Jobkeeper payments for their staff.

Recent data from the Department of Social Services revealed more than 1000 people applied for the wage subsidy in July in the Western Downs during a turbulent time of restrictions and lockdowns.

Now with a state of normality slowly beginning to show on the horizon, businesses such as Mrs Biel’s are looking for people to join their workforce.

“When I’m hiring, it feels like it’s the younger demographic that aren’t in need of money at the moment,” she said.

“You can tell with some of the older workers they tend to value a job a lot more when they’ve been out of work.

“I want to give anyone a go on their own merit.

“I just wish there were more people looking for jobs.”

Job advertising website Adzuna currently has 64 jobs listed in Dalby and its surrounding areas in the Western Downs, such as Chinchilla and Jandowae, with 37 opportunities listed as full time positions.

Dalby Chamber of Commerce president Rohan May and Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh. Picture: Sam Turner
Dalby Chamber of Commerce president Rohan May and Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh. Picture: Sam Turner

Dalby Chamber of Commerce president Rohan May said the Western Downs’ unemployment rate sat at roughly 3.6 per cent in September, however cited the challenges that would emerge from this.

“We’re finding it more difficult to attract staff, and that’s something we’re going to encounter,” he said.

“In fact, most businesses are already there, particularly in some of the higher tier, vocational trade jobs.”

This hunger for workers is leaking into the agricultural sector following the mass exodus of foreign itinerant workers during the pandemic.

In July, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) went as far as to say agriculture in Australia could run out of workers this year.

Maranoa MP David Littleproud said there was a “real aversion” from the Australian workforce to go and pick while on unemployment benefits.

“Even when our social security payment for the dole was $550 a fortnight, we couldn't get people off the couch to go and pick fruit,” he said.

The unemployment rate in Queensland has now become a political beach ball in the midst of the state election, with premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and opposition leader Deb Frecklington promising big ticket projects to create jobs.

The State Labor Government just this morning announced their $200 million plan for a “second Bruce Hwy” from Charters Towers to Mungindi, creating an abundance of jobs in the process.