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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1731

Mr MACPHEE —My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I preface my remarks by saying that, while I do not have the figures with me, if I inadvertently use seasonally adjusted figures which are incorrect, that is a matter I regret. But, even on the figures that the Prime Minister quoted, I put it to the Minister that unemployment, in seasonally adjusted terms, has worsened in the life of the present Government. I ask the Minister: Does he agree that the unemployment rate is particularly bad amongst young people, especially females? Has he looked in particular at table 5 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted series of figures? When does he expect unemployment to peak? Does he agree that the Government has no hope of fulfilling its election promise of creating 500,000 jobs in its term of office? What hope of jobs does the Government now offer young people?

Mr WILLIS —It is quite clear that the honourable member for Balaclava is concerned about the fact that, unlike his Government, this Government is making great progress in the area of employment. We should bear in mind that, in the last 12 months of the previous Government, there was a decline in employment of well over 100,000. In the period since this Government has been in office, there has been a substantial increase in employment. Let me say, as the Prime Minister has already said, that the monthly figures, of course, cannot be taken as being tremendously reliable. They seem to be very volatile at present. Last month there was a reduction of 52,000 in the raw figures. This month there has been an increase of 119,000. In seasonally adjusted terms, last month there was a reduction of 19,000 and this month an increase of 52,000. Certainly the figures are moving around quite a bit. If one looks at the movement over quarters, it is quite clear that, in the September quarter, there has been a strong growth of 35 ,000 over the June quarter. Looking over the quarters gives us a better picture of what the underlying situation is. There is absolutely no doubt that the employment picture is improving and that the Government's Budget forecasts of growth in employment of 90,000 are pretty much on track. As the Prime Minister indicated, it may well be that those estimates are an under-estimate of what will be achieved.

It is also true that there has been some slight increase in the level of unemployment since this Government has been in office. We must bear in mind that as we get into a recovery phase we will certainly have some increase in the work force participation rate. That will come about because people who dropped out of the work force under the previous Government, knowing that there was no possibility of getting a job, will under this Government, realising that there is now employment growth as against employment decline, come back into the work force and therefore be counted as looking for a job. So for some time we are likely to see a concurrence of rising employment and some further increase in the level of unemployment. That is built into our Budget figures in which we forecast growth in employment of 1 1/2 per cent, knowing that the growth in the work force would be of the order of 2 per cent. We cannot be sure about those figures because no one can be sure how the work force participation rate will move. The likelihood is that for the course of this financial year the underlying trend will be growth in employment but, for a while, some growth in unemployment as well.

I refer to the plight of the young unemployed. Of course they are the ones who suffer most. We are greatly concerned about them and we are doing everything we can to ensure that the position of young people is improved by various projects and by making the position for school leavers much better. Let us be quite clear about this situation: School leavers this year will certainly have better prospects of getting a job than school leavers had last Christmas because the employment situation will have turned around quite enormously in that time. From a market last year in which there was a massive decline in employment, this year 's school leavers will find a market in which there is employment growth. Certainly they will find a lot of competition from the unemployed, who are the legacy of the previous Government, but that legacy will be gradually pared back in the course of this Government's period of office.