Plan to boost employment labelled ‘missed opportunity’

The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 4.1 per cent last month, up from 3.9 per cent.

The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 4.1 per cent last month, up from 3.9 per cent. Photo: AAP

A government plan to boost employment and remove barriers for job seekers has been labelled “a missed opportunity” by the opposition.

The Albanese government released a wide-ranging white paper on Monday, outlining new measures to equip workers with skills needed for jobs of the future as well as plans to dismantle barriers for those wanting to work.

Central to this vision for the labour force of tomorrow is a new definition of full employment: a good, secure, fairly paid job for everyone who wants one without having to look for too long.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the coalition supported high levels of employment but he did not want to see inflation spike as a consequence.

“The government should be focusing on bringing down the level of unemployment where we get low inflation … making sure we’ve got policies that give us the combination of low inflation and low unemployment,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“This is a missed opportunity, this white paper, because what the government could have done is said ‘look, we are going to do everything we can to create the more flexible workplaces to knock down the roadblocks to work for employers and employees.”

Mr Taylor said the government could have done more within the white paper to address the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, or NAIRU.

“It’s a really crucial issue, this one, you can bring (NAIRU) down over time,” he said.

“Bringing down the so-called NAIRU (is) the whole point of it … that is the missed opportunity of this white paper.”

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes the aspiration of the white paper  but wants clarity.

“Without clear targets for unemployment and underemployment, the aspiration of full employment will struggle to become a reality,” its CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

A commitment to curbing poverty was absent, she said while calling on the government to lift income support payments.

“Poverty-level income supports are a serious barrier to employment, not the income tests which the government has committed to ease,” she said.

Business groups also broadly supported the jobs plan but said workplace relations changes under way would undermine the vision.

The federal government has embarked on a set of reforms that affect labour hire workers, gig workers and casuals.

Business Council chief executive Bran Black said the reforms risked fossilising industry structures and work practices at a time when technology was forcing rapid change.

“It runs the risk of doing this when economies that are more dynamic than ours are doing exactly the opposite,” he said.

Australian unions said the report highlighted why insecure work was so damaging and why the workforce reforms were necessary.

“The rapid emergence of new, insecure forms of work needs intervention to stop living standards sliding backward,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to full employment and the critical importance of jobs being safe, secure and well paid.”

Topics: Employment
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