Reducing Unemployment in Australia: We Need a National Training Policy

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has called for a national training policy to get Australians back to work.

“It’s time to get serious about reducing Australia’s unemployment rate,” Dr Don Perlgut, CCA CEO, has written in today’s blog post, entitled “Let’s Get Serious About Reducing Unemployment: We Need a National Training Policy that Gets Australians to Work”.

The post responds to a recent article by economist Stephen Koukoulas which states that, “Australian policy-makers have effectively given up on reducing unemployment. Treasury reckons that the lowest the unemployment rate can go without there being a wages and inflation breakout is around 5.25%,” not far below the current 5.6% unemployment rate.

Dr Perlgut’s blog post notes that Trading Economics “also predicts that Australia’s unemployment rate in 2020 – 3 years from now – will be … 5.6%. That’s correct, no change at all.” This is much higher than the USA (4.3%), the UK (4.5%), Japan (2.8%) and Germany (3.9%).

Dr Perlgut describes some of the social, economic, regional and generational costs of persistent unemployment: the devastating and long-lasting impact it can have on people’s lives, crossing over generations. He also notes that, “Young people in Australia had an official July 2017 unemployment rate of 12.9%, more than double the national rate of 5.6%.”

“These youth unemployment impacts are not felt uniformly, with the national figure masking high concentrations in many locations, especially regional and rural Australia: unemployment rates of 28.4% in outback Queensland, 21.8% in NSW Hunter Valley (outside Newcastle), 20.5% in Cairns, 19.6% in southeast Tasmania, 19.5% in mid north coast New South Wales, 19.4% in mid north South Australia and 18.4% in south eastern New South Wales,” writes Dr Perlgut.

“The growing youth under-employment – those who wish to work more than they do – now at 18%, is the highest in the 40 years since the count officially began, according to the Brotherhood of St Laurence,” Dr Perlgut writes. “Add the two figures together – unemployment and under-employment – and you get a staggering 31%, almost one-third, of young Australians who are “underutilised”. Surely this ‘underutilisation rate’ will be much higher – possibly 50% or more – in many regional locations.”

“Are we in danger of allowing a sub-generation of unemployed and underemployed young people to ‘fall through the cracks’, with long-term life consequences for them, their families, their communities and our country?”, Dr Perlgut asks.

“The answer to this dilemma: a national training policy that targets reducing unemployment. It’s not too late to invest in Australian training. Australia is endowed with extraordinary natural resources, extensive wealth, dynamic and hardworking people,” writes Dr Perlgut.

“We have the capacity. We have the skills to make it happen. What we need now is the will and the focus. The desire to place training at the TOP of the national policy agenda, and to include Australia’s community VET sector – now representing some 9% of all VET students,” Dr Perlgut writes.

“In 2016, Australian community education providers topped all categories (TAFE, private for-profit, university), with almost half (48.9%) of graduates employed at the end of the training that had not been employed prior to commencing their study,” Dr Perlgut writes. “It’s time to harness this capability,” he says.

Read Don Perlgut’s full blog post here.

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