Jan 16, 2003

Labour force figures hide true state of labour market


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 16 January 2003

Labour Force figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that the unemployment rate is up for the second month in a row – the first time this has occurred in more than 18 months.

The ABS figures showed that last month more than 11,700 Australians joined the ranks of the jobless, lifting the unemployment rate to 6.2%.

While concerning in itself, the headline unemployment rate of 6.2% conceals even more disturbing trends with respect to the Australian labour market.

On top of the 628,400 who are officially classified as unemployed, figures also reveal that there are more than 700,000 Australians currently working part-time who want more hours and a further 1.16 million who are counted by the ABS as ‘not in the labour force’ who would still like a job.

In total, nearly 2.5 million Australians are not getting the financial and social stability that comes with having enough work.

Data from the Department of Family and Community Services, also released today, sheds further light on the plight of the unemployed and confirms that long-term unemployment is on the rise. This data shows that 393,105 people have been on the dole for more than a year, up by more than 15,000 on the previous month.

The number of people on the dole for more than 12 months is today higher than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in March 1996. Despite a decade of economic growth it is evident that under this Government the long-term unemployed have been abandoned to the ravages of the marketplace.

According to the ABS figures, youth unemployment remained unacceptably high at 20.7%. At this time of year this is particularly gloomy news given that over the coming weeks tens of thousands of young people will find out that they have been unsuccessful in securing a university place.

At a time when some many Australians simply want a job that pays a decent wage, we find out today that the executives of our top companies have granted themselves a 40% pay rise over the past 12 months. While the Government’s big business friends pocket an extra $10,000 per week, more than 600,000 unemployed Australians are excepted to survive on as little as $180 a week.

Instead of preaching to the unemployed, the Government should be investing more to help them to move permanently from welfare into work.