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The real cost of Australia’s working shortage on Four Corners

Breaking Point: The real cost of Australia’s worker shortage

“We’ve reached breaking point. None of us have anything left.” Paediatric nurse

Australia is in the grip of a national labour shortage. From hospitals and hotels through to farms and factories there’s an urgent need for workers. 

“We need more people, there’s a lot of work to be done, we need pruning to be done, we have machineries, we need operators, we need pickers. . . so many things need to be done – I don’t have people.” Farm manager

On Monday Four Corners reporter Adam Harvey investigates the professions and businesses where worker shortages are having a profound impact. The problem is particularly acute in regional towns where almost every sector is struggling.

“I’ve found my colleagues crying in the treatment room or in the storeroom and you meet up with your friends after work and they’re on the verge of a breakdown as well.” Health worker

The crisis is not only impacting the current generation of workers. The national shortage of teachers means Australia’s next generation of workers are also being severely affected.

“At any one time there could be classes that are collapsed or merged with other classes or sometimes uncovered. And some of the classes that are uncovered are sort of senior classes, so the kids are old enough to be safe, but they’re not getting that instruction. . . .That’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for my town. It’s not good enough for any town in Australia.” High school teacher  

The federal government has promised to speed up Australia’s visa processing system to bring in more foreign workers including registered nurses who are desperately needed.

“It’s a well-known saying, working short-staffed is like drunk driving. You can get away with it nine times out of ten, but then something terrible’s going to happen. So things do go wrong.” Registered nurse.

Some employers are being pushed to their limits.  For many the true cost of the worker shortage crisis is more than just financial. 

“I don’t know what the future looks like, whether it’s with me or without me or what I’m going to do next. It’s just very difficult to get up in the mornings and see this happening and again, knowing that it can be resolved. We just need a better system.” General manager 

It is replayed on Tuesday 18th October at 11pm and Wednesday 19th October at 10am. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEDT, ABC iview and at

FOUR CORNERS: BREAKING POINT – Monday 17th October 2022 at 8:30pm on ABC TV and iview

Media Release – ABC

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