Job mobility is on the decline
Job Market

Is job mobility on the decline?

In plain terms, fewer people are quitting. Let’s look at why this might be happening in Australia in 2023.

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, where career opportunities seem plentiful and enticing, it may come as a surprise that job mobility is actually decreasing. Despite the buzz surrounding job hopping and frequent career changes, recent data suggests that employees are exhibiting less mobility than ever before.

What affects job mobility?

Several factors affect job mobility. But one core factor is skill.

The specialisation of skills required for a position, or lack thereof, can push job mobility up or down respectively.

As industries become more complex and demanding, employers increasingly seek candidates with specific expertise. This trend promotes stability and loyalty within organisations as employees are valued for their niche skill sets. Overall, supporting a decline in job mobility.

On the other hand, jobs that do not have a high barrier to entry generally also have higher turnover rates but more opportunities to freely move from one position to another. This promotes greater job mobility.

The next factor, which contributes to the evolution of a skillset is the changing the nature of work.

Automation and digitisation have created new job roles while rendering others obsolete. As a result, employees are compelled to constantly upskill and adapt to stay relevant in their current positions. This can focus their priorities on where they are now, rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere. It can also exclude them from positions in other companies that have more quickly adapted to new technologies and so have more prerequisites.

Skill affects job mobility greatly.

Why is Australia’s job mobility trending down?

There were 1.3 million people in Australia who changed jobs in February of this year. That’s a 9.5% job mobility rate — the highest job mobility rate we’ve seen in the last decade.

But job mobility rose from an all-time low. According to Mark Wooden, Professorial Fellow at Melbourne University, this figure doesn’t give you an accurate picture of job mobility. In fact, he says the long-term job mobility trend is declining.

In plain terms, fewer people are quitting.

Let’s look at why this might be happening in Australia in 2023: 

  1. Economic uncertainty

Fluctuations in the economy can have a significant impact on job mobility. In periods of economic instability, individuals tend to prioritise job security over exploring new career opportunities. This cautious approach to job mobility is evident in recent years, where concerns over financial stability and job scarcity have influenced employees to stay in their current roles. (See: The Big Stay: Embracing the workplace trend of staying put.)

The nature of work also affects job mobility

  1. Industry dynamics

Certain industries, such as healthcare, education, and government, are known for their relatively low job mobility. Factors such as strict regulations, specialised qualifications, and limited opportunities in certain geographic locations can significantly affect mobility within these sectors.

  1. Changing work culture

The traditional concept of loyalty to a single employer for an entire career has shifted in recent years. With the rise of the gig economy and an increasing number of flexible work arrangements, employees are exploring non-traditional ways of working, such as freelancing or starting their own businesses. These alternative career paths can reduce overall job mobility in the traditional sense.


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