How the 2021-2022 Federal Budget impacts the on-demand tradie economy
This week’s Federal Budget announcement incorporates a number of positive inroads for trade businesses and homeowners, as well as Australian technology companies such as hipages.
Here is a summary of key initiatives and my thoughts on these:
Digital Economy Strategy
- The Government has confirmed a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy for Australia, seeking to put “our foot on the digital accelerator”. As part of this, $53.8 million will fund CSIRO/Data61 to create a National Artificial Intelligence Centre to help drive the development and adoption of AI technologies. While funding will also support aviation technologies such as drones and electric engines. Additionally, $24.7 million over six years will support the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Graduates Program, which will offer national scholarships for job-ready AI specialists.
- The Government’s focus on AI development is of particular interest to us at hipages Group, and we’ll be looking at ways to get involved through grants and collaboration. Currently, we have 1.1 million tradespeople servicing 9.9 million households. There is a tradie shortage and the tradie versus homeowner imbalance is only growing. We know that one in four tradies are forced to give up jobs due to the burden of admin, equating to around $120k p.a. of lost work per tradie. Technology adoption that streamlines their admin and creates efficiencies, so they can focus on their craft, is a critical component for sustaining the sector’s stability. While the possibilities are endless, we’d be interested in looking into how AI can help assist with job estimations without being on site; the ability to recommend optimal routes for vehicles and deliveries; or even delivering tools and equipment via drone.
- Building our local AI skills is also critical, so the Next Generation AI Graduates program is a positive step, adding to investment in encouraging women into STEM. However it doesn’t address the current STEM skills shortage significantly impacting Australian businesses as we strive to accelerate our innovation journeys.
- It was announced that Australia will maintain its planned ceiling for the 2021-22 Migration Program at 160,000 places, yet will be streamlining visas to target highly-skilled individuals when circumstances allow amidst COVID-19. It’s noted that planning levels include 79,600 skills places.
- At hipages, we are continuing to grow our technology and engineering teams, as we seek to constantly innovate and build upon our services. Due to the local STEM skills gap in Australia, we require greater and more immediate access to skilled migrant workers overseas particularly in IT. There are simply not enough workers in Australia with latest, sophisticated technology expertise. We would like to see the Government accelerating our access to skilled migrant workers, through specialised vaccination and quarantine programs, to help support the growth journey of Australian businesses.
Tradies and Apprentices
- Employers will be given an extra $1.5 billion to hire 100,000 apprentices and trainees in the next year as the government extends its wage subsidy scheme for the second time. It incentivises businesses to take on new trainees by paying 50 per cent of their wages for the first year, up to a cap of $7000 per quarter. It’s expected 270,000 new apprentices and trainees will be hired under this wage subsidy scheme by March next year. It is also anticipated to help women break into non-traditional trades, with training support for 5,000 places.
- Further, many tradies will benefit from a $1080 tax cut in the budget for low to middle income workers, as well as an extension of the existing scheme allowing businesses to write off the full value of any asset they purchase, such as a tradie’s new ute.
- At hipages, a strong percentage of our members are sole traders or small business owners, and these initiatives should be valuable in driving trade business growth and expansion. As new residential developments grow and a tradie shortage is already among us, it’s critical the construction sector attracts the next generation of talent, so supply meets a rising demand.
First Home Buyers, Homeowners and HomeBuilder
- The Budget extends the HomeBuilder construction commencement period and offers a further 10,000 places under the New Home Guarantee for first home buyers. Plus, 10,000 guarantees will be made available over four years for single parents to build a new home or buy an existing home with a deposit of as little as two per cent.
- These incentives are positive signals for the home improvement and construction sector, with the property boom showing little sign of slowing, and therefore busy schedules for our tradies.
- Adding to this, the Budget includes $15.2 billion over ten years for infrastructure projects across the country, including $3.2 billion for NSW with $2 billion allocated for upgrades to the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow.
- Such projects are sure to keep a strong proportion of our construction sector busy, as well as creating new jobs in one of the country’s most important sectors.
These various initiatives suggest that the Government is placing trade, industry and broader digital skills development at the core of re-building the Australian economy, and sees the value and importance of local trades.
At hipages, we are driven by digitising the tradie economy, supporting trade businesses as they transition to meet the on-demand expectations of today’s consumer. In the past 16 years, we have become the leading Australian-based online platform and Software-as-a-Service provider that connects tradies with residential and commercial customers.
Our members are not gig-economy workers, they are professional, fully qualified trade businesses that have their required licences and credentials. We so far have 34,000 trade businesses using hipages, and with 257,000 trade businesses in Australia, there’s significant opportunity for more trade businesses to go digital. Latest research conducted by LEK research showed that 75,000 tradies increased their use of digital platforms in light of the pandemic, helping them not only safely interact with homeowners, but also create everyday efficiencies.
We’re dedicated to continuing our innovation and helping to inspire the next generation of on-demand trade businesses.