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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1626


Mr GEAR —Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of reports that most of the growth in employment opportunities in Australia is occurring in the public sector? Could the Minister inform the House what the most recent official statistics reveal about which areas of the economy are contributing to the strong growth in employment opportunities in Australia?


Mr WILLIS —I thank the honourable member for Tangney for his question. I am aware of statements that have been made by Opposition spokesmen and other people, including representatives of the Confederation of Australian Industry, that the Australian economic recovery is not widely based and that employment in particular has stemmed largely from growth in the public sector. Statistics which have been released recently indicate that that is simply untrue. Statements made by persons such as the honourable member for Balaclava, the Opposition's spokesman on employment and industrial relations, that up to 50 per cent of the job growth has been in the public sector are completely incorrect. He also described public sector jobs as unproductive. Perhaps he was thinking of his own job or that of his Leader.

From the August labour force figures we can see that there has been widespread employment growth and especially strong employment growth in the private sector. Overall employment growth over the year to August was three and a half per cent which, by any standards in our history, is very strong growth indeed. In the manufacturing sector, which has been an extremely sick part of the economy, we are starting to see employment growth. In the year to August we saw very small growth, just under 10,000; but at least it was growth compared to the enormous job loss which was occurring in previous years. This growth resulted particularly from very strong employment growth of almost 18,000, or 1.6 per cent, in the three months between May and August. That indication is very encouraging indeed. Let us look at other sectors of the private part of the economy. In the construction sector employment grew by over 9 per cent during the year to August. In the wholesale and retail trade employment has grown by 4. 5 per cent. In finance, property and business services employment has expanded by 7.8 per cent and in recreation and personal services it has increased by 7.5 per cent. In a wide array of private sector parts of the economy there has been very strong employment growth.

If we look at the three areas of the economy which are predominantly in the public sector-that is, community services, public administration, and electricity, gas and water-we will see that growth overall has been 5.8 per cent . So it has been much less than that which has occurred in a number of the predominantly private sector parts of the economy. Overall, those three sectors of the economy which are particularly related to the public sector have accounted for just over 36 per cent of the growth in employment or 80,000 jobs out of about 230,000. Overwhelmingly the job growth, therefore, has been in the private sector. In other words, the economic recovery which is occurring in this country, and the job growth which is occurring because of it, is widespread. It is occurring across a wide array of industries. It is occurring particularly in the private sector. The Government is therefore confident that the employment figures which are contained in the Budget Papers and which show growth in employment of another 160,000 in the course of 1984-85 will be achieved and that that employment growth will continue to be across industry as a whole.