The Albanese Government’s employment white paper, Working Future, has laid out an ambitious roadmap to help ensure all Australians who want a job can find one.
CEDA Chief Executive Melinda Cilento says this is a critical challenge for the economy at a time of worker shortages and slowing productivity.
“Major structural shifts like digital transformation, the energy transition and an ageing population require a much more agile labour market than we have now,” Ms Cilento said.
“We must break down the economic and social barriers that stop people from being able to participate fully in work, from doing the job they want and are best suited to do, and from moving for work.
“A definition of full employment where anyone who wants a job can find one without having to search for too long is a worthy aim.
“But the Government’s goal of embedding sustained and inclusive full employment as a strategic objective must work with, not against, its goal of making the economy more dynamic and responsive to change.”
The white paper highlights the scope to better use the skills that migrants bring to Australia. CEDA has previously found nearly a quarter of permanent skilled migrants are working in a job beneath their skill level.
The Government must further progress reforms to better use the skills of migrants, to enable the transfer of skills from migrants to local workers and better target skills shortages.
“The Government has flagged it will consider introducing a visa pathway for workers with essential skills, such as in the care economy,” Ms Cilento said.
“An Essential Skills Visa should be a priority of the migration review response to allow care workers to directly migrate with long-term residency opportunities.
“Australia’s growing demand for care workers cannot be met with domestic workers alone.”
The Government is right to identify delivering quality care more efficiently – particularly in aged care –as one of its five key pillars to boost productivity.
We must boost innovation and adoption of new technology to use the care workforce more effectively, as well as improving care outcomes and boosting job satisfaction.
“We must expand digital literacy training both for new trainees and existing staff and invest in research on new technologies,” Ms Cilento said.
“Boosting the use of technology to reduce workers’ administrative burdens will help to improve outcomes by giving workers more time to provide one-to-one care.”
Clean energy jobs
A skilled workforce is critical for the clean energy transition. Almost 43,000 more electricians are forecast to be needed in the next 10 years.
“We will need to attract many more workers into the clean-energy sector, and with a broader range of skills. Existing skills must be recognised and potentially updated,” Ms Cilento said.
“Our research has underlined the importance of better communicating the energy transition challenge, while updating licensing and training to enable modern pathways in new technologies.
“This would expand access to new job opportunities and reduce the risk that skill shortages will be an obstacle to the transition.
“Introducing higher level apprenticeships is also a positive move. OECD evidence shows it is important not to close off the option for higher degrees when people choose to take vocational training such as at TAFE.”
CEDA supports setting Australia on a gradual path to universal access to childcare.
“This care must be high-quality, affordable and accessible, but this will require a significant ramp up in the number of childcare centres and trained staff,” Ms Cilento said.
“This is unlikely to be achievable in the short-to-medium term given skills shortages across the care sector.
“The sector will be unable to provide adequate quality unless this is phased in slowly and with appropriate support to expand and train the workforce.”
The report also raises the need to boost dynamism in the workforce.
“We have previously found Australian businesses need to get better at seizing new opportunities and transforming themselves to meet them,” Ms Cilento said.
“We need a clear focus on how better to build and enable these skills and capabilities and must ensure that increasing regulatory burdens don’t block this kind of innovation.”
Finally, we welcome the commitment to better use of data to inform and evaluate policy. We have previously found this can help overcome entrenched disadvantage.
CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.