Labor’s jobs plan not at odds with RBA, says treasurer

Driving the unemployment rate down to its lowest level possible is a key objective of the federal government’s new road map for Australia’s labour market.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government’s stance on full employment is not at odds with the Reserve Bank’s non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU) of roughly 4.5 per cent.

That’s despite the employment white paper steering clear of a statistical target and instead favouring a broader definition of full employment.

The NAIRU is used by the central bank and Treasury to gauge the level of unemployment that does not cause inflation to increase.

Dr Chalmers told Sky News the purpose of the white paper was to get this technical assumption as low as possible.

“We’ve seen it come down in recent years,” he said on Sunday.

“The Treasury now says about 4.25 per cent, we want to drive that down as low as possible.

“We want to get unemployment as low as we can, we want inflation moderate – those are our objectives.”

The employment white paper, to be released on Monday, is the product of 12 months of work following a jobs and skills summit in 2022.

The expansive document is expected to include nine new policies.

A National Skills Passport has already been announced.

The vision is for an Australia-wide system to connect workers looking for a new job with employers seeking people with specialised skills and training.

The federal government has committed $9.1 million towards a business case for such a program.

Gender equality and the pay gap measures will also feature in the paper.

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher says gender equality is a priority for the government.

“Improving women’s workforce participation is critical for Australia’s future economic prosperity and resilience,” she said in a statement.

However, the gender pay gap remains present across every industry.

Male-dominated STEM fields, specifically machinery and equipment repair, had the largest pay gap at 24 per cent, which meant women were paid $34,000 less each year.

The government hopes to address the pay gap by creating gender balance across every industry and occupation, increasing the share of men in health care and education and encouraging women to work in construction, mining, manufacturing and other male-dominated sectors.

Incentives for women to enter the workplace include childcare subsidies and improved parental leave.

The Council on Ageing hopes to see measures to help older Australians into work as well.

COTA Australia acting chief executive officer Corey Irlam said systemic ageism and other issues were locking older people out of the workforce.

“The federal government’s employment whitepaper needs to include practical measures to break down the barriers locking older people out of the workforce or it’ll be doing Australians of every age a disservice,” he said.


Poppy Johnston and Kat Wong
(Australian Associated Press)


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