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Business Services

Overview

This page provides high-level information and data on the Business Services industry which comprises four main industry sectors: 

  • Business Administration and Governance
  • Business Communication
  • Business Leadership and Management
  • Specialised Business Services.

For more information specific to these sectors, please visit the respective sector pages.

The Business Services industry is involved in the operation and management of businesses, including occupations from entry-level administrative and clerical staff to those involved in governance and corporate strategy at the highest level. As such it is not an independent industry; rather all Australian industries include workers in Business Services.

Nationally recognised training for Business Administration and Governance is delivered under the BSB – Business Services Training Package.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

As Business Services is a diffuse area, it is difficult to capture all employment in the industry. As such, employment levels in Other Administrative Services have been used as a proxy for wider Business Services employment to gain an insight into general trends in this industry.

Employment in the Other Administrative Services industry more than doubled between 2002 and 2022, with particularly strong growth between 2006 and 2009, 2013 and 2016, and 2017 and 2019. Employment levels decreased in 2020 to approximately 54,100 from the preceding year, and then increased to 77,500 in 2022. The industry employment level is projected to decline to 68,500 by 2025.

Employment numbers are projected to grow over the next few years to 2026 for the most common VET-related occupations in this industry, apart from Secretaries, where a decline of almost 20% is projected. This is likely due to the advent of digital technology and automation, which threaten many roles in this industry (see Industry insights for more information). Strong growth is projected for General Clerks (13%) and Conference and Event Organisers (11%).

Program enrolments in the Business Services Training Package have remained relatively constant, increasing slightly overall from 355,970 in 2017 to 358,650 in 2021. Program completions have fallen over the same period, from 118,000 in 2017 to 111,050 in 2021.

In 2021, subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program received 3,552,320 enrolments compared to 150,210 for those not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. These figures have both declined since 2017 which recorded 3,620,030 and 163,200 respectively.

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Business Services IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast the top priority skills required for the Business Services industry are:

  • Digital competency
  • Business competence
  • Social competence
  • Critical thinking, problem solving and strong interpersonal skills
  • Data literacy
  • Technical skills.

The following are also identified as the top generic skills for the Business Services industry:

  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self management (adaptability)
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Data analysis
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN), Foundation Skills).

Job vacancy data indicates that the top occupations in demand in the Business Services industry are:

  • Information Officers
  • Call or Contact Centre Workers
  • Accountants
  • Actuaries, Mathematicians and Statisticians
  • Software and Applications Programmers.

According to the same vacancy data, the top generic skills in demand from employers in this industry are:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Detail-orientated
  • Organisational skills
  • Building effective relationships.

The Business Services IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identifies the following key drivers for change:

  • Technological change including the automation of job tasks and technologies facilitating globalisation and offshoring
  • New ways of working, including virtual teaming allowing collaboration across geographic locations, the gig economy and digital freelancing platforms, and increasing team diversity
  • Increasing agility across industries, meaning workers are not limited to opportunities only within a single industry.

The Future Work for Small Business: Skills, Capabilities and Potential report by Jobs Queensland identified significant demand for knowledge and skills to respond to technology changes and the emergence of the digital economy. Their research and stakeholder engagement consistently identifies business, leadership, management and digital skills and capabilities as critical to the creation, viability and growth of small businesses. A recent survey of businesses in Queensland found that 90 per cent identified a need to become more digitally savvy.

The skills and capability needs of businesses are diverse. Electronic invoicing and social media marketing are now essential for many small businesses. According to the Future Work for Small Business report, building business skills and capabilities including leadership and management that enhances viability, resilience and sustainability of established small businesses in a transitioning economy should be a core focus of future programs.

The Business Services IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast discusses the impact of new technology on the Business Services industry. For the Business Services industry, it is predicted that up to 87% of job tasks for some occupations could be automated, however these occupations have not yet been significantly impacted by automation. Skills which complement automation technology are identified as a need for the future. Technology is also allowing for better collaboration between workers of different geographic locations, contributing to globalisation and an increasing level of diversity amongst team members.

Also discussed are changes in the varieties of work undertaken, as freelancing platforms contribute to a trend towards casual work instead of full-time. Strong interpersonal skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills are identified as a need for this area to enable workers to operate as sole-traders or run micro-businesses. Business Services job roles are identified as being particularly transferable, allowing workers to take up roles in other sectors with relative ease. Micro-credentialing is expected to be in increasing demand to bridge the skills gap for changing work environments and develop agility across industries.

TAFE Enterprise in their white paper Soft Skills vs Hard Skills discuss the impact of automation upon businesses, and identify soft skills such as creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking as being increasingly important to support collaborative work environments as technologies change. This corresponds with points identified in the 2019 skills forecast.

In the National CEO Survey: Business Prospects for 2019: Leadership Needed as Economy Softens by Australian Industry Group, 21% of participating businesses identified skill shortages as their top concern, up from 17% in 2018 and 7% in 2017. They also discuss their 2018 paper, Skilling: A National Imperative, where three quarters of their respondents reported skills shortages, including for the first time skills shortages in the areas of business automation, big data and artificial intelligence.

In a 2017 speech to the Economic Society of Australia, Alexandra Heath, The Head of Economic Analysis at the Reserve Bank of Australia, placed the Business Services industry at the heart of the economic response to technological change. She indicated that this process has driven Business Services to become ‘more important, more specialised and more integrated [with other industries and areas of the market.]’ These changes are likely to have led to higher productivity growth, but more work is needed to understand how this might continue to affect the Business Services industry into the future.

An analysis of the professions most at risk of automation in A Smart Move by PwC shows that the Business Services industry contains many such professions. Occupations such as Accounting Clerk, Bookkeeper, Office Administration Worker or Secretary were among the jobs considered most at risk of automation, indicating that many entry-level positions in Business Services may be eliminated or drastically reduced in the future. This also drives the need for workers to upskill, and particularly to develop skills in creative or customer-service related areas where the risk of automation is relatively low.

COVID-19 impact

The University of Sydney identifies that the impact of COVID-19 is reduced for many in the business services sector as they are able to work from home, in comparison to other sectors such as hospitality where working from home is not an option.

In Impact of COVID-19 on Australian Business: A Joint ACCI-UniSA Survey, businesses reported that they needed staff who could provide enhanced marketing skills that are adapted for an online communication environment. Small businesses reported having to organise better communication that was regular and engaging of staff working at home or remotely during the ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 has also accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by Australian businesses, which has enabled many to transform their operations and continue to trade through the crisis. In the Digital Business Plan to Drive Australia's Economic Recovery media release, the Morrison Government announced an investment of almost $800 million to enable businesses to take advantage of digital technologies to grow their businesses and create jobs as part of Australia’s economic recovery plan.

In Digital Economy Strategy 2030, the potential benefits to the Australian economy through digitalisation have been estimated to be as much as $315 billion over the next decade, with the potential to create up to a quarter of a million new jobs by 2025. Businesses are still relying heavily on virtual workforce management principles and staggering staff shifts in and out of the physical office.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

 

IRC and skills forecast

Business Services Industry Reference Committee

 

Relevant research

A Smart Move – PwC

Digital Business Plan to Drive Australia's Economic Recovery - Joint media release from Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg

Digital Economy Strategy 2030 - Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Future Work for Small Business: Skills, Capabilities and Potential - Jobs Queensland

Impact of COVID-19 on Australian Business: A Joint ACCI-UniSA Survey - Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the University of South Australia

Soft vs Hard Skills: Why Successful Australian Businesses Need Both – TAFE Enterprise

Structural Change in Australian Industry: The Role of Business Services – Alexandra Heath (Head of Economic Analysis Department, Reserve Bank of Australia)

The Unequal Burden of the COVID-19 Labour Market Collapse - United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising

Australian Association of National Advertisers

Australian Human Resources Institute

Australian Institute of Company Directors

Australian Institute of Health and Safety

Australian Institute of Office Professionals

Australian Institute of Project Management

Australian Institute of Training and Development

Australian Library and Information Association

Australian Marketing Institute

Customer Service Institute of Australia

Governance Institute of Australia

Institute of Internal Auditors Australia

Institute of Managers and Leaders

Institute of Public Administration Australia

Interactive Advertising Bureau

Public Relations Institute of Australia

Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia

The Research Society

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit 729 Other Administrative Services Industry, employment projections to May 2025.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit 729 Other Administrative Services Industry, 2002 to 2022, May Quarter.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit 729 Other Administrative Services Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.
     

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • Conference and Event Organisers
    • General Clerks
    • Call or Contact Centre Workers
    • Secretaries
    • Office Managers
       

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the BSB Business Services Training Package and all relevant superseded packages.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
  • ANZSCO major groups excluding Sales Workers
  • 729 Other Administrative Services.
  • Employers
  • 5412 Information Officers
  • 5411 Call or Contact Centre Workers
  • 2241 Actuaries, Mathematicians and Statisticians
  • 1311 Advertising, Public Relations and Sales Managers
  • 2211 Accountants
  • 729 Other Administrative Services.
Updated: 27 Oct 2022
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