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NESA Practitioners Conference: speech at the National Employment Services Association Practitioners Conference, Gold Coast.

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Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP

Minister for Workforce Participation 03 May, 2007


NESA Practitioners Conference

National Employment Services Association Practitioners Conference, Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast


Xavier Crimmins, Chair NESA

Sally Sinclair, CEO NESA

I wish to acknowledge the people who are the traditional custodians of the land we stand on today.

It is great to see so many of you here today - I always enjoy the chance to meet with the people on the front

line, delivering our policies and assisting Australians into jobs. Without your hard work and commitment we

would not able to achieve the record outcome employment levels we enjoy today.

Why are we here?

We want to help some of Australia’s most disadvantaged unemployed get off welfare, and into a job.

And even if these unemployed welfare dependent people of working age, are just a tiny number in our society,

the Australian Government still tries to help - because in the words of US Federal Reserve Governor Frederick

Mishkin, in a recent speech in the US:

“high unemployment is associated with human misery, including lower living standards and increases in

poverty as well as social pathologies such as loss of self esteem, a higher incidence of divorce, increased rates

of violent crime and even suicide.”

So surely the human misery and social pathologies associated with unemployment for some is reason enough

to justify our $3.6 billion budget for Welfare to Work over the next 3 - 4 years.

But there are other compelling reasons why you as PAGES have been engaged to assist.

Australia has an ageing population and shrinking workforce with a booming economy. You will also know we

have fewer and fewer tax payers to support the working aged and the old aged welfare dependent. For

example, 40 years ago only 3% of working age depended on welfare - now it is 16%. In the 1960’s there were

22 workers for each person on welfare - now there is 5 to 1.

Working age welfare alone costs us about $20 billion a year.

With the booming economy about 2 million new jobs have been created since 1996. But we will be 200,000

workers short in 5 years. Migration won’t save us, nor will a sudden �1% increase in fertility. 30% of women

of child bearing age in Australia won’t have children because they don’t have a partner. The majority of

women want children, the majority of men don’t!

So for the sake of the individual, and for the future well being of our society, we need to increase workforce

participation. And we know we have a lot of room for improvement, especially when we compare with other

OECD countries.

• For example, the workforce participation of our males aged 25 to 54, our prime aged men, ranked 25th out of

30 OECD countries.

• Workforce participation of our child bearing aged women, 25 to 44, were ranked 23 out of 30.

• Older persons 55 to 64 were ranked 13 out of 30.

Interestingly, however, in regards to youth, 15 - 24, their workforce participation rate ranked 2nd overall.

But, there has never been a better time to get a job in Australia - for example jobs in Western Australia, if you

have a pulse, you will be offered a job driving a truck. Apprentices are lured away in the 2nd and 3rd years and

so on.

Under utilisation of tools for building the capability of job seekers:

Let’s take the Job Seeker Account (JSKA)

• Since 1 July 2003 the JSKA notional bank has been credited with $1.1 billion. Just over two thirds of this, or

$775 million, has been reimbursed to JNM’s for funds they have spent to help clients, leaving approximately

30% unspent, and this rate of underspend is increasing.

• From July 2006 to March 2007, in the last 8 months for example, the JSKA was credited with an additional

$223.3 million, only $127.6 million has been reimbursed to JNMs. This leaves nearly ½ not spent. $95.7 million which could have been used to build the capability of job seekers.

Training Credits

• For the period 1 July 2002 to 31 March 2007, $93.4 million in training credits was available to people

completing Work for the Dole - we even brought forward access to halfway through. Of that $93.4 million

only $16.6 million has been spent from Training Credit entitlement.

Full-time Work for the Dole

• To date, there have only been 2,488 commencements into the new Full-time Work for the Dole programme.

(There are 16,500 places available for 2006 07.)

Wage Assist

• In 2006-07 there were 3,000 Wage Assist places allocated to Job Network Members. Unused places are not

rolled over to the next year.

• As at March 30, only 563 job seekers had been placed into employment with a Wage Assist subsidy.

• In 2007-08 there will be 5,000 Wage Assist places available and 7,000 Wage Assist places in 2008-09.

These additional financial resources, typically made available in addition to your fees and outcome payments,

are to build the capability and therefore the choices for our clients.

Unemployment is now at a 30 year low. There are jobs going begging in retail, hospitality, tourism, transport,

the caring sector, agribusiness, to name but a few. And given the distress and social pathologies that can

blight the life of someone who is long term unemployed, why would anyone not exercise their choice, and take

a job?

Well, the point is, you tend not to be able to exercise a choice, if you have no capability, or opportunity. Many

of our unemployed on welfare have to be supported to build a capability that improves their job prospects.

We know our single parent pensioners generally have lower educational attainment than other mothers.

In 2004 we found over 30% of our single parent pensioners only had year 10 educational attainment.

Although the good news is that two years before that the percentage was 40%.

We know the majority of people on DSP are mature age, unskilled men.

We know literacy and numeracy are frequently a problem for our 15 to 20 year old unemployed youth,

especially indigenous youth, but also for other clients.

But the capability problem extends well beyond reading and writing and lack of formal qualifications.

If you are one of the 600,000 kids currently growing up in a household without a breadwinner, you are

unlikely to be learning a work ethic. You won’t know much about appropriate or competitive job interview

technique, resume writing, behavioural expectations in the work place, or even where to find that job -

because in Australia many are not advertised. It’s sometimes who you know, for example, an employer, or

someone taking on an apprentice, not what you know, or how keen you are to be given a go.

The John Howard Government recognises this capability problem and we have put tools at your disposal to

help overcome clients deficits or needs.

We begin with the Job Capacity Assessment to establish exactly what the person’s work capacity is, so we can

send them off to the most suitable of our nine programmes in PAGES and get individualised, personal

guidance and assistance to build capability to get a person a job.

For the most needy, we have PSP and JPET, then on a continuum to DEN capped and uncapped, overlapped

by Vocational Rehabilitation, then NEIS, or Greencorps or Job Network.

Please excuse the acronyms, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ve probably strayed into the

wrong conference.

So after you’ve been JCA’d to the best program for you we offer, though your PAGES, depending on your need,

a range of support and resources.

We have put substantial financial resources on the table to fund this capability building. For example, pre-employment preparation, all sorts of training, wage subsidies, relocation assistance, transport assistance,

employer contacts, and relationship building, work experience, and workplace modifications. But much of

this resource remains underspent or underutilised by PAGES.

Now don’t get me wrong, PAGES have helped place more people in work in the last 6 months than was

achieved in the last 6 years prior to 1996.

But we must do more to seize the day in this climate of demand for workers. Besides building client capability

we must develop opportunity for our job seekers, who can then exercise choice.

How do we build opportunity?

We build opportunity by working with employers to change their often discriminatory attitudes and negative

stereotypes about the capabilities of our mature aged clients, our parents, youth, indigenous clients and

people with disability.

Every PAGES in fact has two categories of clients;

1. the unemployed, and

2. the employer.

Unless you can effectively build relationships and engage with employers in your local economy, you will

never achieve as much as is possible. I know many of you are doing a great job already - but I want to stress

this point because again you are not on your own.

The Government has also funded innovative employer strategies, and pilots, to help PAGES cooperate with

employers or their peak bodies to find new ways to train and place people.

Some of these cooperative programs have been spectacularly successful, like the Whyalla 100, now in its

second round.

We know about the long established and deeply held notions about taking a risk employing some of our


Work Choices and changes to the unfair dismissal laws and greater flexibility in the workplace have helped

here. But we have also run communications campaigns on your behalf, and we are about to run another,

starting on 17 June, we are focussing on employers, reinforcing the bottom line benefits of employing our


We expect, and hope these ads will increase the number of employers contacting you directly. I’d like to show

you some of these messages, especially the prominence given to the hot line.

Finally, let me say when not in parliament I spend much of my time travelling around Australia visiting you. I

learn a great deal from your experience at the coal face, I appreciate the frank and honest feed back and the

hospitality you all extend. You have told me about the red tape problems, the burden of the bureaucracy, and

IT glitches and a host of other issues. I do see this as a great partnership between private enterprise and

government in delivering opportunity to some of our most disadvantaged Australians.

They deserve a chance to make a great contribution to our economy, and to enjoy greater choice and

independence in their own lives and for their children.

Thank you.

For further information contact:

Liz Rodway 0421 587 207