Jobs and Skills Summit 2022
On September 1 and 2, government, employers, civil society, and unions met at Parliament House to address the shared economic challenges faced by Australian workplaces today.
The primary focus of the Australian Jobs and Skills Summit – led by the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers – was to inform the Employment White Paper set to be released addressing common issues facing workers.
Alongside Ministers Gallagher, Burke, O’Neil, Rishworth, O’Connor and Husic, the Prime Minister and Treasurer outlined Labor’s goal to encourage a better-trained and more productive workforce with the aim of improving living standards and increasing the incomes of Australians across the country.
The close of the Summit saw the Government actioning recommendations for medium and long-term reform, including 36 immediate initiatives as a direct result. A copy of these initiatives as well as other commitments made over the course of the two-day summit can be found here.
Issues facing women and other marginalised groups dominated discussions over the two-day summit with strong emphasis being placed on equal pay and exposure to equal opportunities.
A notable observation is that of the presenters selected to speak at the summit; half were women. Organisers of the event made a concerted effort to ensure that there was 50:50 gender representation at the summit.
The summit opened with a keynote address by economist, Danielle Wood directly followed by a panel discussion centred around opportunities and wages for women in the workforce, both highlighting the Albanese Labor Government’s priority to consider the needs of women and other marginalised groups when structuring policy.
The government has committed to immediately strengthening existing reporting standards to require employers with 500 or more employees to commit to measurable targets it improves workplace gender equality.
Burden of Care
A major area of concern highlighted at the Summit centred around the burden of care place on women. Promises to improve the affordability of childcare and address and pay inequity were key election key election commitments for the Albanese Labor Government.
Suggestions were made to expand the paid parental leave scheme to help women get back to work sooner and encourage a more even distribution of care between both parents with the idea of a ‘use it or lose it’ provision being raised.
The government has promised to put in place a Carer Friendly Workplace Framework which includes a self-assessment tool and learning modules, for businesses to recognised as a carer friendly workplace.
Notably, objectives of the Fair Work Act were also discussed with pay rises encouraged in female-concentrated professions including that of aged care and childcare.
Skilled Workforce and Workforce Shortages
Addressing the lack of skilled workers in Australia shaped discussions across the two-days with the government announced their plan to increase the permanent Migration Program ceiling to 195,000 within the next fiscal year to tackle workforce shortages.
An additional $1billion in joint Federal-Stand funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 was also committed with a push to accelerate the delivery of 465,000 feel-free TAFE place, with 180,000 to be delivered in 2023.
The government has set out to legislate Jobs and Skills Australia as a priority based on tripartite governance and establish the Jobs and Skills Australia work plan in consultation with key stakeholders to address workface shortages in priority sectors.
In conjunction with the states and territories, the government announced that they task Jobs and Skills Australia to commission a workforce capacity study on the clean energy workforce.
One commitment made by the Albanese Labor Government as a result of the summit was to extend visas and relaxing work restrictions on international students with a $36.1m investment to resolve the visa backlog and accelerate the overall process.
The government also pledged to increase the permanent Migration Program ceiling to 195,000 within the next fiscal year to tackle workforce shortages and have increased the duration of post study work rights by allowing two additional years of stay for recent graduates in select areas of study.
Another announcement was the government’s plan to widen the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, making $575 million available to invest in affordable and social housing.
For older working Australians, the Government announced the introduction of a one-off income credit for Age Pensions to enable them to continue to work without losing a portion of their pension.
A Visitor Economy Disability Employment pilot has also been proposed to deliver place-based employment accounts to improve disability employment outcomes, connecting small businesses, employment service providers and jobseekers with disability.
The government have also committed to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Business Council of Australia to improve the career pathways of people with a disability, as well as a commitment to embedding employment in NDIS plans.
Jobs Security and Wages
In conjunction with the unions, the Government immediately committed to work together to establish a tripartite National Construction Industry Forum to constructively address issues such as mental health, safety, training, apprentices, productivity, culture, diversity, and gender equality in industry.
Plans to update the Fair Work Act have also been fast-tracked to provide proper support for employer bargaining representatives and union delegates, stronger access to flexible working arrangements and protections for workers against discrimination and harassment.
To maximise jobs and opportunities in our industries and communities, the Government have also committed to implement a Digital and Tech Skills Compact to deliver digital apprenticeships that will support workers to earn money when studying to work in entry-level tech roles, with equity targets for those traditionally under-represented in digital and tech fields. Additionally, the Government have promised to deliver 1,000 digital traineeships in the Australian Public Service.