The Business Council of Australia has endorsed the findings of a report released by The Smith Family today which outlines the critical importance of education and training in helping low-income individuals and families beat the poverty trap.
BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey, said the research would contribute significantly to community, business and government understanding of the policies and actions needed to assist low-income Australians develop skills and training that allowed them to enter or re-enter the workforce.
Ms Lahey said a key priority of the BCA – which represents Australia’s top 100 companies – was improving education and training outcomes for all Australians.
Access to, and motivation to participate in high-equality education and training meant not only better prospects for low-income Australians in finding permanent and satisfying jobs, but also increased the overall skill level of Australia’s workforce to compete in the world economy, she said.
“The research undertaken by The Smith Family underlines the importance of education and training in reducing the likelihood of poverty,” Ms Lahey said.
“It shows that poverty rates of those aged 15 years and over declined sharply as educational qualifications increased.
“This is not surprising, considering the nature of today’s workplaces. The requirement for a skilled workforce among employers is much greater than it was 20 years ago.
“The reality is that fewer and fewer jobs require low-skill levels, hence the importance for all low-income Australians to have access to high quality education and training that allows them to make an active contribution to economic growth.”
Earlier this year, the BCA released research showing that Australia risked creating an underclass comprising an increasing number of young Australians who drop out of school early.
The BCA’s The Cost of Dropping Out report called for more intensive efforts by governments to tackle the problem which could cost the Australian economy $2 billion a year in lost productivity as well as higher welfare and other social costs.
Ms Lahey said The Smith Family’s research complimented the BCA’s own studies, particularly in highlighting the need for more flexible yet focussed structures and arrangements to help young people plan for their future education and employment.
“We hope this research plays an important part in developing effective public policy that assists low-income Australians in overcoming existing barriers and challenges to high-quality education and training,” Ms Lahey said.