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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1821

Senator RICHARDSON —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Is it a fact that the level of long term unemployment, particularly amongst the middle age male category, has not been arrested despite the strong growth in the absolute level of employment over the past 12 months? If so, can the Minister outline what initiatives the Government has taken and will be taking to boost employment for the longer term unemployed?

Senator WALSH —It is a fact that the number of people in long term unemployment- that is defined as people who have been out of work for more than 12 months-has increased substantially in the last year in spite of the fact that total employment has increased by almost 200,000 and the unemployment rate has declined by almost one per cent and would have declined by more had it not been for an increase in the participation rate; that is, more people within particular age groups making themselves available for employment or being in employment than had been the case previously.

I take these figures in regard to long term unemployment from the March Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data. The number of people unemployed for more than a year has increased from 158,000 to 216,000. I am not aware of the breakdown for the middle-aged male within the total figure. However , I recall getting some information on this a while ago and noting that a high proportion of people within that long term unemployment category are middle-aged males. That is a matter of particular concern to the Government. Evidence is emerging that the long term unemployed are disadvantaged and are not competitive in getting new jobs. Amongst other things I would expect that an employer, given a wide choice between applicants, is less likely to take someone who has been unemployed for a long period than a person apparently otherwise equally qualified who has been unemployed for a shorter period or, indeed who possibly may not have been unemployed at all at the time of applying for another job. As I said, the increase in long term unemployment is a matter of great concern to the Government.

As to the Government response, there is, of course, the general stimulation to the economy and the record rate of economic growth which it is expected will be achieved by June 1984 over June 1983. Real growth of the order of 10 per cent now seems likely to take place. It is difficult to do anything for the middle- aged long term unemployed males in particular but I believe it is reasonable to expect that as the Government's policies continue, and if the present rate of expansion of total employment can be maintaned, the long term unemployed, along with every other group, will be in a substantially better position to obtain employment than they have been. They will be in an immeasurably better position to re-enter the work force or employment than they would have been had the previous Government still been in office.