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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 1152

Senator HUTCHINS (2:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. Can the minister inform the Senate of the labour force results for October 2010?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —I thank Senator Hutchins for the question. The strength of the Australian economy was again on display last week with the release of the labour force figures showing the creation of 29,700 jobs as Australia’s workforce grew to a record high of more than 11.3 million workers—more workers in the workforce than ever before. This follows the creation of 49,500 jobs in September. It is a testament to the strong economic management that the government is providing and it is the case that, since we were elected in November 2007, the economy has created 650,000 jobs. Over the year to October, seasonally adjusted employment has increased by about 375,000 jobs or 3.4 per cent and almost three-quarters of those jobs have been full-time jobs.

The labour force figures also show that the participation rate has climbed to an all-time high of 65.9 per cent, up 0.3 percentage points, suggesting that strong economic conditions may be encouraging more people to enter the labour force. The female participation rates were also at record highs. It is that strong increase in the participation rate that underpins the headline 0.2 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, which rose to 5.4 per cent in October. While that rate increased in October, this reflects the fact that we have record numbers of Australians joining the workforce with the participation rate reaching its highest level on record. We welcome the fact that more Australians are in work and also that more are actively looking for work. We remain confident that Australia’s unemployment rate will continue to decline in line with the MYEFO forecasts. We are confident that there will be great opportunities for those seeking work in the coming years.

Senator HUTCHINS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. How do these results compare with the situation in other developed economies?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —It is a fact that Australia’s unemployment rate remains much lower than any of the major advanced economies excluding Japan. It is interesting to note that in the US the October figure was 9.6 per cent, almost double Australia’s; in the UK the unemployment rate was 7.7 per cent in July; the latest figure I saw for Canada was 7.9 per cent; and in the euro area the unemployment rate was 10.1 per cent in September. It is a fact that we are doing much better than many of our like economies. The fact that we emerged from the global financial crisis in such a very strong position is a testament to strong economic management. The OECD report released recently strongly endorsed the government’s economic management and the strategy to further strengthen our economy. We have been able to achieve what no other major economy could during the crisis: increase job numbers during the worst global recession in 75 years. (Time expired)

Senator HUTCHINS —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. How will the Critical Skills Investment Fund be used to address emerging skills shortages as the economy grows and strengthens?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —As the economy continues to grow and strengthen, the government is working hard to respond to what are emerging skills shortages. The Critical Skills Investment Fund is a key part of the government’s skills and sustainable growth strategy of more than $660 million to address those skills shortages, lift foundation skills and reform and improve access to vocational education and training.

The Critical Skills Investment Fund of $200 million will upskill workers and train job seekers who wish to work in the critical industry sectors that have strong demand. It will target skills shortages in the resources, construction, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors. It will also increase workforce participation by groups traditionally underrepresented in these sectors. Government funding support for training will be matched by enterprise contributions on a sliding scale. We will look to double the Commonwealth investment to try and ensure that young people get the opportunity to take advantage of the economic growth. (Time expired)