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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1453

Ms JAKOBSEN(9.55) —In speaking to the Appropriation Bills (Nos 3 and 4), I would like to talk about the community employment program in relation to other schemes for employment creation. Over the last 10 years in Australia four major job creation schemes have been implemented, all with a different approach to job creation and alleviation of unemployment. The regional employment development scheme, which was better known as the RED scheme, was introduced by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1974. Kirby, in a paper entitled 'The Recent Australian Experience-An Overview Paper', which was published in Youth Employment, Education and Training, commented that this scheme had favourable secondary effects, in addition to its primary effect of creating employment, in terms of regional multipliers, training and mobility, and improved motivation for the unemployed.

The special youth employment training program was introduced by the Fraser Government in 1976 as an attempt at a job creation scheme. It still operates through the paying of subsidies to employers of youth, predominantly through the private sector. Structurally unemployed groups, other than youth, are not included under the scheme. It has been widely criticised on five grounds, as follows: Firstly, it encourages the substitution of subsidised for non-subsidised employees; secondly, the training element of the jobs is generally minimal; thirdly, the jobs are of low skill and generally repetitive; fourthly, employers rotate-that is, terminate employment when the subsidy runs out and then seek new recruits under the scheme; and, fifthly, the net job creation effect of the scheme has been minimal-that is, around 20 per cent of the subsidised jobs have been new jobs. Unpublished government studies cited by Kirby point to low retention rates-roughly 20 per cent of participants being with employers two years later-and low net employment effects, sometimes as low as 11 per cent, which I think was in 1979.

The wage pause program was commenced at the end of 1982 as the Fraser Government's response to the freeze of public sector wages which it had initiated. In order to sell the freeze, the wage savings generated were to be used by the States for public sector job creation. Criticism of that program also has been widespread, largely as a result of the slowness of State governments to implement the scheme and the varied interpretation and implementation of the guidelines across States. Some States had capital intensive projects employing very few females-for example, Queensland-and other States, such as Tasmania, were very slow in getting projects off the ground.

The most successful scheme, the community employment program, was introduced by the Hawke Labor Government in 1983. As stated in the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations report entitled 'CEP-The First Year':

The fundamental objective of the community employment program is to assist the most disadvantaged groups of unemployed in obtaining permanent employment in the general labour market.

It does this by providing work experience and training on worthwhile projects and acting as a stepping stone for those people to get back into the work force. The program is not intended to be a direct source of permanent jobs, although many projects do have the potential to be self-sustaining and to create ongoing employment. Priority is given to such projects in the assessment process. (Quorum formed).

In order to achieve the stated objective of assisting the most disadvantaged groups of unemployed, the positions created through the CEP must be additional to those which already exist or which would have been created in the absence of the program. This is to ensure that the CEP jobs are not simply substitutes for other jobs. In addition, CEP projects must be labour intensive. Job creation under the program occurs through the funding of projects sponsored by Commonwealth and State government departments and instrumentalities, local government authorities and community groups.

During 1983-84 at least half of each project budget, or more than 70 per cent of the CEP grant, was to be devoted to target group labour costs. This requirement ensures that the focus of the program remains on maximum job creation while still recognising other aspects of project costs. An associated requirement is that, on average, projects should provide participants with employment for six months. Flexibility is introduced by providing for a minimum project duration of 13 weeks and a maximum duration of 52 weeks.

A common criticism of past job creation schemes is that participants were engaged in meaningless work and so failed to gain any real benefit from participating. The CEP, on the other hand, provides productive and meaningful work by requiring that projects provide facilities and services of social and economic benefit to the community. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development experience, as quoted in The Challenge of Unemployment, suggests that community schemes provide greater motivation and are more morale boosting to participants than the other forms of job creation schemes. The participants have the satisfaction of feeling that they are doing something constructive for their local communities.

Indeed, in my electorate of Cowan, there are a number of community-based employment projects funded through the CEP where the participants have gained a great deal from contributing to the projects. A good example of dedication in this regard is the creative and therapeutic activities group known as CATA and the farm which is associated with the Burbridge Road School, previously known as the Koondoola Special School. In both of these cases, the CEP employees have made a marvellous and selfless contribution to the projects, benefiting themselves at the same time.

CEP projects must also create jobs directed at the target group of disadvantaged persons in the labour market. A general eligibility requirement of at least three months continuous registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service has been set to define the eligible population. Priority is then given to the target group, which comprises the long term unemployed, defined as persons registered continuously with the CES for nine months or longer, Aboriginals, disabled people and migrants with an English language difficulty.

To give effect to equal employment opportunity policies, a particular requirement of the program was that at least 50 per cent of jobs should go to women, excluding the jobs on local roads component. I am particularly proud as all honourable members would be aware of this employment program's record in relation to the employment of women. From the outset it was evident that the 50 per cent women's target would be a problem because the proportion of women working in the construction industry was only about 10 per cent. In recognition of this, a women's participation target of 20 per cent was set for this component. To ensure that the achievement of the women's target for the Commonwealth CEP as a whole was achievable, an amount of $8.5m was set aside for women's projects and this became known as the women's component.

Women bear a disproportionate burden of unemployment, especially hidden unemployment, which has imposed additional economic difficulties on many unemployed women who are sole parents and largely reliant on social security benefits. The Hawke Government is committed to playing an active role in fighting discrimination against women-indeed, against any social group-seeking to participate in the labour market. Accordingly, the Government has taken positive steps to break down the labour market segregation and discrimination against women through actively seeking to improve their participation in Federal training and employment programs.

The community employment program, our major job creation initiative directed at the long term unemployed, has as an important objective the achievement of equal female participation. The Government recognised women's difficulties by allowing a moratorium on the necessity for three months registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service. By doing so it acknowledged the impact of long term unemployment on women, not only in the official statistics but also in the ranks of the hidden unemployed. Although we have not yet achieved the equal participation we seek, the results so far have been extremely encouraging. Since the introduction of the CEP in August 1983, 35 per cent of all jobs commenced under the CEP have gone to women. Roads and water supply projects were excluded from the 50 per cent target, but if these are removed from the calculation the extent of female participation increases to 41 per cent. This situation will continue to improve as the community employment program matures.

Tighter targeting has been pursued under the program during 1984-85 and a special conference on women and the CEP, sponsored last year by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, enabled program operators from all States to share their experiences and improve female participation. In fact, of all jobs approved under the CEP so far this financial year, 46 per cent have been earmarked for women, or an impressive 49.4 per cent if road projects are excluded. The House will be aware that the Government introduced a target of 25 per cent female participation in roads projects for 1984-85, and over 22 per cent of all jobs approved on such projects since the introduction of this new guideline have been filled by women.

A major focus of the recent Kirby Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs was the issue of access of particular groups of disadvantaged job seekers, including women, to the current range of Federal training and employment programs. The Committee also contended that disadvantaged groups should not be ostracised from mainstream activities and catered for through separate special programs, which would serve only to entrench existing tendencies to segregation and discrimination. Rather, the targeting approach pioneered under the CEP is now recommended for all mainstream programs, including the objective of equal participation by females and males. This recommendation has significant implications for the operation of a range of Federal programs. The Government will be examining this carefully in the context of its overall consideration of the Kirby Committee's report, according to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis).

Improving the opportunity for more equitable participation by women in the labour market is also, of course, a function of breaking down some of the socio-economic biases associated with the performance of domestic or family responsibilities. On this issue the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) made the Labor Government's view clear when he addressed the International Labour Organisation in 1983. He pointed to the need for a more equitable sharing of family and domestic responsibilities, the provision of support services, and the recognition of the family responsibilities of both men and women workers in the terms and conditions of their employment.