Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New measures to boost skills and workforce participation

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
    Senator The Hon Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research
    Senator The Hon Kim CARR, Minister for Human Services
    The Hon Kate Ellis MP, Minister for Employment Participation

Important new measures introduced as part of the Gillard Government’s $3 billion Building Australia’s Future Workforce (BAFW) skills and workforce participation package come into effect tomorrow.

This is a major package of reforms announced as part of the 2011-12 Federal Budget, and is one of the largest training and workforce participation packages in Australia’s history.

This Government is committed to protecting jobs and maximising our productive workforce capacity, and these new measures reflect that.

The measures coming into effect tomorrow will strengthen the reforms that have already made our labour market the envy of the industrialised world.

The changes target skills and workforce participation with some specific location-based measures, all focussing on under-skilling in the workforce and getting people into good jobs.

People with Disability

We are making it easier for people on the Disability Support Pension to find and keep a job, where they can.

From tomorrow DSP recipients can work for up to 30 hours a week without losing access to their pension, subject to income testing.

This change gives people on the DSP the security to test their ability to work more hours, without worrying about losing qualification for their pension.

And for the first time, from tomorrow, DSP recipients under the age of 35 with some capacity to work will be required to attend regular participation interviews with Centrelink to develop participation plans, tailored to their individual circumstances.

Participation plans could involve working with employment services to improve job readiness, searching for employment, undertaking training, volunteering or rehabilitation.

The Government is breaking down the barriers to employment through the Enhanced Wage Subsidy, which can provide up to $3000 for employers who hire someone with a disability for 15 hours or more each week.

We are also making a wage subsidy available to employers who offer employment to job seekers with minimal work experience, including those with a disability, worth around $220 a week for 26 weeks.

Skills and training measures

The Government has committed approximately $854 million over three years to a new National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform. This will deliver better quality investment in skills and training to ensure the needs of employers and employees. This new National Partnership will also ensure investments deliver the right skills to the economy at the right time.

The Gillard Government will establish the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency to directly and constructively engage with industry on current and future skills demands and how best to meet them.

The Agency will also play a central role in directing substantial Australian Government investment in skills and workforce development under the industry-driven National Workforce Development Fund.

Very long-term unemployed

Nearly 230,000 job seekers participating in Job Services Australia are considered to be very long-term unemployed as they have been receiving income support for two years or more.

Of these nearly 83,000 have multiple and complex barriers preventing them from gaining employment.

From tomorrow very long-term unemployed job seekers will be required to undertake additional activities to make sure they remain engaged and job ready, giving them the best possible chance of finding work.

Under these new arrangements Job Services Australia providers will receive an additional $1000 credit to help job seekers pay for an activity specifically tailored to address unemployment factors, such as paying for licences or equipment needed to get a job.

There will be an increase to places in Language, Literacy and Numeracy programs, which will include work experience to improve foundations skills needed for employment.

A new approach to tackle entrenched disadvantaged

Additional support and new requirements for jobless families with young children in 10 disadvantaged communities around Australia will help them break the cycle of joblessness.

These targeted locations will have new participation requirements for jobless families including new interviews and workshops provided by Centrelink to help them become job ready and ensure their children are school ready. Parents will have access to extra child care assistance, training places, and expanded early childhood and parenting courses.

The new responsibilities build on the new requirements and supports for young parents that started in these 10 communities on 1 January 2012.

These measures are designed to ensure disadvantaged job seekers in targeted locations will receive the additional assistance they need to overcome the barriers that have prevented them from obtaining sustainable and ongoing employment.

Youth and early school leavers

From tomorrow, Youth Allowance recipients who are not full-time students or Australian apprentices will be able to take advantage of an increase in the income free area from $62 to $143 per fortnight, meaning they can earn twice as much before it impacts their income support payment.

Early School Leavers connected with a Job Services Australia provider will get a $500 Employment Pathway Fund credit to receive tailored employment assistance, and complete blocks of the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program.

It is anticipated that 160,000 early school leavers will receive these strengthened employment services and transition support over four years.