An alliance of seven of Australia's key employment interest groups says assistance for the country's long-term unemployed is an immediate priority.
The alliance of leading business, union, education, independent research and community organisations says Australia's economic growth rate should encourage the Commonwealth to fund better training, counselling, job search and work experience programs for people trying to get back into employment.
Its Pre-Budget Brief released today (20 March) also points out that every retrenched worker who ends up in long-term unemployment costs the taxpayer between $50,000 and $150,000.
The Pathways to Work Alliance is proposing that the Federal Government give high priority to cutting the numbers of Australians unemployed long-term. The urgency is driven both by the needs of the more than 350,000 men and women directly affected, as well as for the health of the national economy.
The Alliance says long-term unemployment has remained stubbornly high for the past decade, despite stronger than expected economic growth. The joint proposal calls for stronger measures to reduce and prevent long term unemployment, especially among young people, older workers and in hard-hit regional areas.
"Economic growth rates now provide the right fiscal opportunity for better training, counselling, job search and work experience programs for people trying to get back on the job," said Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Katie Lahey.
"The Government's responses to the Eldridge Report and the McClure Report have raised expectations of a substantial commitment to young Australians and effective welfare-to-work reforms. Now is the time for action," Ms Lahey said.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said regional areas of entrenched long-term unemployment required urgent Government action and large numbers of young people needed education and training opportunities to effectively engage in the workforce.
"The cost to the Budget of these extra measures is modest when compared with the costs to both the economy and to our society of unacceptably high levels of long term unemployment," Ms Burrow said.
The Budget submission suggests that funding to implement the reforms could be sourced by a review of the current mix of expenditure and revenue measures, such as tax breaks, rebates and broad eligibility for some family assistance provisions, which benefit the more well-off. Decreasing unemployment also carries benefits to revenue and productivity.
ACOSS President, Andrew McCallum, said: "This Pathways Pre Budget Brief follows on from the recently released Productivity Commission report on employment services which also called for reform and a greater effort in assisting long-term unemployed people. In particular long-term unemployed people should be guaranteed access to work experience, training or other assistance to secure employment."
PATHWAYS TO WORK includes:
- Business Council of Australia
- Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA)
- Jobs Australia
- Dusseldorp Skills Forum
- Youth Research Centre at Melbourne UniversityMEDIA CONTACTS: For interviews regarding the Pathways Pre-Budget Brief, contact:
- Katie Lahey, Business Council of Australia (contact John Hine 0418 332 272)
- Sharan Burrow, ACTU, (contact Jeremy Vermeesch 0408 513 849)
- Andrew McCallum, ACOSS (contact Phil O'Donoghue  9310 4844)
- Penny Stevens, Dusseldorp Skills Forum, contact 0412 915 888
- David Thompson, Jobs Australia, contact (03) 9349 3699 In January 2001 these same organisations jointly published Pathways To Work - Preventing and Reducing Long-term Unemployment.