With unemployment at 3.4 per cent, full employment – where people seeking paid work or more hours can get them, real wages and income supports can grow, and people aren’t left behind – is within reach.
On day two of the Jobs and Skills Summit, ACOSS is calling for investment in employment services that work, and lifting income support payments, from the miserly $46 a day, to be a key part of discussions on addressing the skills shortage, boosting workforce participation and reaching and sustaining full employment.
ACOSS Acting CEO, Edwina MacDonald said:
“Something is clearly not working when employers are crying out for workers but 760,000 people are still overlooked and locked out of the paid workforce, having to rely on income support for more than a year. Forty per cent have a disability, 47 per cent are older than 45 years, 13 per cent are First Nations people and 12 per cent are sole parents, mainly women.
“These are all groups that have been left behind in the labour market. Despite labour shortages they are still missing out on the opportunities presented by low unemployment. Amidst a cost-of-living crisis, $46 a day is not enough for people long term unemployed to afford the transport costs to get to an interview, to get a haircut or suitable clothing.
“We must see a serious conversation about lifting income supports to $70 a day, so that so that our social security system is no longer a barrier to workforce participation.
“ACOSS reached agreement with the ACTU and BCA last week on policies to restore full employment. A shared commitment to reduce long-term unemployment is a key part of that agreement, including in the need to substantially increase jobseeker and related payments, and reform employment services.
“We need an employment services system that works for people who are unemployed and employers, not the punitive, tick-a-box compliance machine we have now.”
ACOSS proposes that the government replace ‘keep busy’ programs that won’t work like Work for the Dole and Employability Skills Training with a flexible Jobs and Training Offer for people unemployed long-term, consisting of a genuinely negotiated menu of options to help overcome barriers to employment, including:
- placement in suitable paid employment (with mentoring and training as needed).
- subsidised job trials in regular employment, with normal rates of pay and industrial protections.
- ‘demand-led’ programs which connect people with employers with specific workforce needs (such as aged care workers) and work backwards from there to train, prepare and trial them for those jobs.
- career guidance, vocational training, or foundation skills training; or
- assistance with health and social barriers to employment.
To make this work from the ground up, the government should work with employers, unions, employment services, public and community training providers to establish local employment development networks that connect the right people to the right jobs and training opportunities.
ACOSS CEO Edwina MacDonald said, “If we can connect the right people with employers offering the right jobs, that’s a win for people locked out of employment up until now, a win for employers, and a win for the country.”