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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1391


Mr CLEELAND —Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of claims that improvements in the Australian labour market are largely attributable to the expansion of the public sector? Can he inform the House whether the final labour force figures for February throw any light on this issue?


Mr WILLIS —It is a fact that figures published today for employment on an industry basis for the month of February show that there has been a very strong growth in employment in the private sector over the year to February. Honourable members opposite, and others, have been claiming that employment growth has been substantially in the public sector. Those claims have been refuted by these figures. Growth in industries in the public sector-that is, electricity, gas, water, communications, public administration, defence and community services-has accounted for 53,000 jobs out of a growth of 210,000. A growth of 25 per cent in employment over the year to February has been in those public sector dominated industries.

Accordingly, 75 per cent of the employment growth has been in industries which are overwhelmingly private sector. In the construction industry there was a growth of 57,000, or 13.7 per cent; in the wholesale and retail trades there was a growth of 48,000; and in recreational, personal and other services there was a growth of 24,500.

The manufacturing industry, which has been through very tough times and suffered a substantial decline in employment in the last couple of years of the previous Government, has now recovered. In the last 12 months it has shown a growth of 24,500, or 2.2 per cent. Certainly that is below the other sectors, but at last it is showing an employment growth.

We are very encouraged by the fact that the Government's objective of ensuring that the economic recovery spreads to the private sector has been clearly seen to be the case. The national accounts figures show that; the employment figures show that; and we now have the picture that employment growth between the public and private sectors is moving in line with their proportions of total employment. There is not bias towards the public sector in the employment growth. It is moving simply in line with its proportion of overall employment-about one-quarter-and the same goes for the private sector. I am sure that as the economy continues to recover and we move into the phase of strong private investment, we will continue to see strong employment growth in the private sector.