Jobs Summit: The Key Take-Aways

The federal government’s jobs summit was held last week. Heralded by the new government as an opportunity to establish a workable roadmap to assist Australia’s talent crisis, the outcome was a tangible commitment to positive change.

Attended by politicians, employers, unions, business groups and industry, the two-day event was noted for its spirit of collaboration and unity, a rarity in the era of modern politics.

We observed four main commitments resulting from the jobs summit. And we have also listed additional promises noted at the event. Read on for more.

Jobs Summit Outcome 1: Increased Permanent Migration

A focus on permanent migration, and a shift away from short-term immigration, was agreed at the jobs summit. The number of permanent migrants for the 2022-2023 period would be 195,000 people, an increase of 35,000 from the previous period. And of this 195,000, 34,000 would be for regional areas.

Home affairs minister Claire O’Neil said the government wants to focus on permanent residency, citizenship, and nation building.

“Based on projections, this could mean thousands more nurses settling in the country this year, thousands more engineers,” she said.

Claire O’Neil, Home Affairs Minister

In terms of the places offered, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said the government was set to have further conversations about the mix of skills sought and which would be a priority. The initial focus was on offering permanency to Australia’s migrants; a pathway for making Australia an attractive option to the global talent community.

The government will also extend the period international students can stay in Australia, after completing studies, so they can work here. People in select degrees, and areas where skills shortages are evident, can access two more years of working rights. They can also stay for up to an additional six years if they’re studying certain PHDs.

Jobs Summit Outcome 2: Industrial Relations

Various industrial relations changes have been recommended by the government. There’s still a lack of concrete detail but the Employment Minister, Tony Burke, stated at the jobs summit that further consultation will be forthcoming, almost straight away.

One of the options was to simplify the multi-employer arrangement for workers. With the aim of legislating flexible options for reaching employment and workplace agreements, this initiative was flagged to help small business and some care services, in particular. Whether this raises the likelihood of industrial action and strikes across unrelated industries, remains to be seen.

Another change noted by Tony Burke was to simplify the ‘Better Off Overall’ test. Hoping to make the test more flexible and fairer, the goal is to give the Fair Work Commission increased power to enable workers and business to better reach agreements. Of note, the goal is to set minimum standards for the road transportation sector; also, to establish a National Construction Industry Forum to address the health and safety issues plaguing the industry.

Jobs Summit Outcome 3: Working Pensioners

The government will provide people on the age and veterans pension with a so-called “one-off income credit”. These workers can earn an additional $4,000 this year before it affects their pension payments. This initiative will only be active until June 2023, but the change will allow pensioners to earn $11,800 this year – up from the current level of $7,800 – before the government pension is reduced.

This was a strategy which the Labor government supported before this year’s election, and one which opposition leader, Peter Dutton, also supports.

Other changes for pensioners, include allowing them to remain on social security even if they earn above the income threshold. On current ruling, if pensioners exceed their income limit for a 12-week period, they must regularly reapply to maintain benefits (like concession cards, for example). The timeframe under this new initiative, will extend to two years before they need to reapply.

Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

“36 concrete areas of action that will happen this year”

Jim Chalmers, Federal Treasurer

Jobs Summit Outcome 4: Paid Parental Leave

The government has opened up the option of extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. Noted as ‘worthy of consideration’ by Anthony Albanese, few specifics were put forward.

It’s an initiative which is supported by both business and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) who have been calling for this timeframe expansion. As a means to help close the gender pay gap, the ACTU suggested the categories of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer, should be changed to ‘parent’ to allow couples to share the load.

“In 2022, women shouldn’t have to give up on having a family and men shouldn’t miss out on being involved in raising their kids because paid parental leave is insufficient.”

ACTU President, President Michele O’Neil

Jobs Summit Outcomes: Others to Note

Other outcomes from the jobs summit include:

  1. An additional $1 billion in joint Federal-State funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerated delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places;
  2. More flexibly utilising $575 million in the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in social and affordable housing, and attract financing from superannuation funds and other sources of private capital;
  3. Improving access to jobs and training pathways for women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse people, including equity targets for training places, 1,000 digital apprenticeships in the Australian Public Service, and other measures to reduce barriers to employment;

Many of the outcomes of the jobs summit are still sketchy. But a commitment to immediate debate and action has been put forward by the Prime Minister. It’s a good start, that’s for sure. The sense of cross-party collaboration was evident at the summit. A factor we can only hope prevails.

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