Unprecedented Industry and Community Coalition Issues Statement on Preventing and Reducing Unemployment

An unprecedented new industry–community coalition of major business, labour movement, education and community welfare organisations is taking to government proposals for a comprehensive national strategy to tackle long-term unemployment.

Their joint statement, ‘Pathways to work: preventing and reducing long-term unemployment’ is a collaborative effort which began with discussions held in June this year, hosted by the Business Council of Australia. The Pathways Statement is released today (Wednesday 6 December) to coincide with letters to the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and every member of Parliament seeking their support.

The coalition consists of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS); the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU); the Boston Consulting Group (BCG); the Business Council of Australia (BCA); the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA); the Dusseldorp Skills Forum (DSF); Jobs Australia (JA Ltd); and the Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne.

The Pathways Statement argues that economic growth of itself has not and will not deliver the conditions necessary for tackling long-term unemployment. Although this period of growth in our economy has brought with it significant reductions in overall unemployment, unemployment benefit statistics reveal a worrying trend that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits for more than 12 months has barely fallen over the past five years, and stood at 385,000 in September 2000.

The statement identifies the need for action in three key areas, including:

1. Ensuring a successful transition from education to employment. All young people should have access to education, training and employment opportunities delivering Year 12 completion or its equivalent, as a minimum expectation for making a successful transition from school.

2. Ensuring a successful transition from retrenchment to re-employment. Employers, unions, government, and employment assistance and training providers, should work together at the local and regional level to assist workers facing retrenchment who are at high risk of long-term unemployment.

3. Reducing long-term unemployment. To achieve this the government should, as part of its response to the McClure Report on Welfare Reform, substantially boost its investment in employment and training assistance so that all long-term unemployed people are offered substantial help (such as paid employment experience and relevant education and training) to overcome barriers to employment, through Intensive Employment Assistance within the Job Network.

The organisations involved in the Coalition, committing themselves to continuing collaboration, will be jointly seeking meetings with the Prime Minister, other key ministers and the Opposition as soon as practicable.