Australia’s Jobs and Skills Summit
Held in September, Australia’s Jobs and Skills Summit brought together representatives from unions, employers, civil society and governments to address the economic challenges caused by current labour shortages.
The Summit and subsequent Employment White Paper that was released focused on:
- keeping unemployment low while boosting productivity and incomes
- delivering secure, well-paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth
- expanding employment opportunities for all Australians, including the most disadvantaged
- addressing skills shortages and getting our skills mix right over the long term
- improving migration settings to support higher productivity and wages
- maximising jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia
- ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay
Led by the Prime Minister and Treasurer and supported by other key ministers, the Summit recommended immediate actions and opportunities for medium and long-term reform.
The key recommendations to come from the event covered a range of different areas, including:
Technical and Further Education (TAFE)
One billion in funding was committed to paying for free TAFE courses and more than 460,000 free TAFE places.
Other training opportunities will be created to encourage more women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally diverse Australians to participate in the workforce. Measures will be put in place to reduce barriers to employment and increase apprenticeships.
The Government also pledged to develop a comprehensive blueprint with key stakeholders to support and grow a quality Vocational Education & Training workforce.
One of the main contributors to Australia’s workforce shortages is a lack of migrant workers. During COVID, many immigrants and short-term visa holders returned home, which reduced the ‘pool’ of skilled and unskilled workers in Australia.
At the Jobs and Skills Summit, it was decided to expand the permanent migration program from 160,000 to 195,000 people between now and the end of next year. For temporary workers and international students, visas will be extended and work restrictions relaxed. Funding has also been committed to fast-track the current backlog of visa applications.
In addition to this, international students who study nursing, engineering, IT and teaching (to name a few) will be allowed to stay and work in Australia for an additional two years after completing their course. Master’s graduates will have their post-study work-rights visas increased from three to five, and PhD graduates will be able to stay six years, up from four.
The Government will update the Fair Work Act to create a simple, flexible and fair new framework that ensures all workers and businesses can negotiate in good faith for agreements that benefit them. These include small businesses, women, care and community services sectors, and First Nations people.
In addition to this, the Government will:
- Consider options to support the Fair Work Commission build cooperative workplace relationships
- Consider how to best help employer representatives and unions improve safety, fairness and productivity in workplaces
- Amend relevant legislation to give workers the right to challenge unfair contractual terms
- Initiate a detailed consultation and research process on the concept of a living wage, reporting back in late 2023.
- Initiate a detailed consultation and research process considering the impact of workplace relations settings (such as rostering arrangements) on work and care, including childcare.
The Government will also update the Fair Work Act to:
- Provide proper support for employer bargaining representatives and union delegates
- Provide stronger access to flexible working arrangements and unpaid parental leave so families can share work and caring responsibilities
- Provide stronger protections for workers against adverse action, discrimination, and harassment
Women in the workforce
To encourage female participation in the workforce, businesses with 100 employees or more will be required to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
Employers with 500 or more employees must commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in the workplace.
Pensioner working hours
Finally, pensioners will be able to earn an additional $4,000 during the 2022/2023 financial year without losing any of their pension. This is on top of the $480 fortnightly earning limit that currently applies.
The goal of these changes is to deepen the talent pool and remove barriers to entry so more Australians can actively participate in the workforce, which should make a difference to wage pressures and skills shortages currently being experienced by employers. You will find the extended outcomes document with all the immediate actions and areas for further work here.
Need to build a skilled team of employees in Australia? Contact APEO for help finding, recruiting and onboarding the right people today.
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