The pandemic has tested all Australians. Labor wants a recovery for everyone, not simply a return to the status quo of job insecurity and stagnant wages of 2019 and before.
In 1945, Prime Minister John Curtin released the Full Employment White Paper, which charted a course for the Australian labour market in the post-Second World War era. Curtin knew that if Australia was to prosper after a period of great upheaval it needed to rewrite the social contract, and to be meaningful, full employment needed to be at the core of it.
Australia is at a similar turning point, and a White Paper on Full Employment will help us to navigate it. The White Paper will be informed by an Australian Jobs Summit that will be convened as one of the first actions of an incoming Labor Government.
We want a recovery for everyone, not simply a return to the status quo of job insecurity and stagnant wages of 2019 and before.
While it’s welcome to see unemployment back down at pre-pandemic levels, this doesn’t tell the full story of a labour market characterised by underemployment, casualisation, job insecurity and stagnant wages.
There are still more than 1.5 million people who are looking for work or more hours.
There are around 230,000 Australians who have been unemployed for more than six months.
4 million Australians are in insecure work.
Living standards have stagnated under the Coalition. Over the last eight years, real wages growth has been at record lows.
This White Paper will consider how to address the barriers to people working as many hours as they want, at a wage they can live on, and contributing to their full potential.
For Labor, full employment means not only fewer unemployed, but also secure jobs that provide sufficient hours of work, elimination of all forms of discrimination, and full participation in work by women, mature workers, people with a disability and First Nations people.
This will lead to higher and rising wages and gender pay equality in our labour market.
The Morrison Government has no plan about how we can tackle the broader, structural barriers to full employment.
The structural challenges that were present before the pandemic will still be there once the borders reopen. The White Paper will help us to think about and prepare for the structural change that has been happening in our economy and will continue to happen over the coming decades.
The White Paper on Full Employment will plot a path for Government to reduce unemployment and underemployment and keep them low.
It will investigate and report back on issues such as how we can best prepare Australians for the jobs of the future; how we can improve the quality of work; how to tackle issues of underemployment, casualisation, job insecurity, long-term unemployment and stagnant wages.
It will also look into current policy settings and how they can be improved, considering the role of education and training, childcare, employment services and concentrated disadvantage, as well as how to best supply labour to fast growing sectors such as the care economy.
The White Paper will be informed by an Australian Jobs Summit that will be convened as one of the first actions of an incoming Labor Government.
The Summit will invite a range of people to contribute to the key issues from their perspectives. While businesses, unions, the non-government sector and all levels of governments will be at the table, it is particularly important that marginalised groups are heard, understood and can feed into real solutions in the White Paper too.
For people with disability, for First Nations Australians, and mature workers for example, the statistics can only tell us part of the story. The Summit will allow us to understand these issues in more detail and importantly, how barriers to employment can be removed.
Following the Australian Jobs Summit, the White Paper will be prepared by the Treasury Department and will be completed as a matter of urgency within Labor’s first term.