Counting the Cost: Australia’s Fires & Jobs

By Jodi Walton, Managing Director, Harrison McMillan

At Harrison McMillan, jobs are our business. But there’s no doubt that the recent bushfires are already having – and will continue to have – an impact on Aussie jobs for months and years to come.

In 2018, California’s wildfires cost that state an estimated $400 billion. The prediction took into account the loss of value in property, values, taxes, lost jobs and wages, as well as impacts on the health system.

With 25.5 million acres burned, Australia’s recent fires are more than 13 times bigger than California’s worst wildfire season.

The stats are sobering, and so too are the impacts on the job market. But which industries will be worst affected? And what sectors have seen new jobs created as a result of this tragedy?

Here’s a list of the sectors that are expected to be worst hit – and the sectors where there are opportunities for job seekers.

Tourism & Hospitality Impacted

It’s been well-publicised that the tourism industry is being hit hard by the recent fires. The Australian Tourism Export Council estimates the sector will be $4.5 billion worse off by the year’s end. But industry relief packages and support campaigns to support the tourism sector will likely create additional jobs for tourism marketers and content creators.

Retail Sector Besieged

Weak results are expected for the retail sector in the months ahead and may cost jobs. BIS Oxford Economics’ chief economist Sarah Hunter cited the bushfires as one of the impacts on consumer confidence.

Agriculture – Big Challenge & Opportunity

With more than 820,000 ha of agricultural land scorched in the blazes, the impacts on the sector are truly devastating. With so many crops and livestock lost, the economic cost is substantial and may be a contributing factor to some farmers and other residents relocating for good. At the same time, fire relief packages and current fresh food shortages will create opportunities for some farmers and growers.

Busy Time for Insurers

As some companies in the tourism and farming sectors reportedly write off almost 90% of their income this summer, it’s clear this is boom time for insurers. At a minimum, more claims administrators, customer service representatives and insurance assessors will be needed to work through prospective claims.

Recovery Experts Needed

At the same time, the ongoing ecological and biodiversity impacts include the recovery of habitat damaged in the fires, care for species that have survived, and potential impacts to waterways and air quality. Experts who can aid with recovery efforts will include scientists and environmental analysts. More supporting Government personnel may also be needed to spearhead and support this work through the relevant departments, such as the Department for Environment and Water.

Building Boom

The building industry, including builders, building designers and architects, in fire-affected areas of the country are expected to be kept busy for up to five years. This is as a result of the limited availability of local builders, and material shortages in fire-affected areas, which may cause delays. Specialist building designers and consultants with expert knowledge in building to bushfire standards will likely see a surge in their workload.

Charity Sector Expands

We know Aussies right across the country are giving generously to aid those people, animals and places impacted by the fires. But this is creating its own challenges for the 6000 registered charities that are working in bushfire-affected regions. And one challenge is personnel. Many charities are growing their teams in order to respond to the scale of the challenge – and will continue to provide essential support in the months and years ahead.

Big Health Impacts

According to a recent survey more than half of all Australians have been directly impacted by the recent bushfires. Common impacts have included health effects from smoke haze and consequent breathing and respiratory issues. It’s been a busy time for doctors and other health care workers, but for psychologists, counsellors and social workers, the health costs for those who have been directly impacted – including firefighters, veterinarians and other emergency personnel, as well as those who have lost their homes – will be felt for years to come. It is likely this will create a shortfall of mental health practitioners, with regional Victoria already identified as one area where more psychologists and doctors are needed.

It has been heartening seeing the way that local, national and international communities have responded to the tragic bushfires we’ve faced this summer.

While significant challenges are ahead of us, there are also opportunities to grow and build more resilient communities.

The whole recruitment industry has gotten behind the bushfire effected communities generating their own go fund me page to give direct financial support to those effected. Like Harrison McMillan, you can donate here: We understand this isn’t going to be fixed overnight and the effects of these fires will be felt for years to come.

Jodi Walton is the Managing Director of Harrison McMillan: Harrison McMillan are an award-winning Recruitment and HR company that have changed the way that clients think about recruitment.  Our Managing Director, Jodi Walton, has more than 20 years of professional recruitment and HR experience, predominantly in South Australia, United Kingdom and the broader Asia Pacific region.  She is a currently a National Board Director of the RCSA, Australia and New Zealand’s peak recruitment Industry Association.  Jodi is an experienced public speaker, emcee, trainer and industry disruptor.