Release type: Speech

Date:

Address to G20 Labour and Employment Minister’s Meeting

Ministers:

The Hon Kate Ellis MP
Minister for Employment Participation
Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care

Guadalajara, Mexico, 18 May 2012

Distinguished Ministers, delegates and observers, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to be here today representing the Government of Australia.

The G20 and its membership are immensely important to Australia.

We value the opportunity to work with you on addressing our shared challenges today and into the future.

Preparing young people for the jobs of the future

One such shared challenge is ensuring that our young people have access to meaningful employment.

We know from past experience of global economic downturn that it can all too often be the young who carry the long term scars of a recession.

Now each of us here today is taking a different and unique approach to addressing youth unemployment in our countries but there is one common theme uniting us - and that is a commitment to making the future of our next generation one that is filled with opportunity beyond that experienced by their parents or grandparents.

Of course meaningful employment is central to that.

There is a clear policy imperative to ensure that as the world continues to experience economic instability - no young person is left behind. 

It must be our responsibility to limit this impact of the crisis on young people and for this reason Australia calls on the G20 to prioritise action to address youth unemployment and foster sharing of experience. 

Supporting young people in a changing economy

Australia is proud to have a strong economy, demonstrated by low inflation, low interest rates and a low unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent for April 2012. Despite this, our youth unemployment rate is more than double that figure and an issue that our Government is committed to addressing.

Change is an ongoing feature of all our economies. 

Industries grow and contract and people move around the labour market from one job to another.

Structural change is having a significant impact on the Australian labour market at the moment and as our economy transforms to focus on the jobs of our future.

The policy challenge during this period of structural adjustment is to help equip young people with the skills to find jobs both now and in the longer term to give them the skills to navigate a future which will involve ongoing labour market change.

This requires policy change – of our education system, of our training and skills sectors and flexibility for our employment services to adapt with flexibility to an individual’s circumstances.

Investing in skills

The combination of structural change and youth unemployment has seen a range of initiatives to support young people find employment, with a particular focus on ensuring young people have the skills and education that will help them get a job. 

We know that education has the power to transform lives.

That is why our Government has just introduced our first national school curriculum, ensuring that all students get the basic foundations they need on which to build their skills for life.

We have also made an unprecedented investment in our schools infrastructure, including through a program to build trades training centres in our schools – more actively supporting young people to commence an apprenticeship or traineeship as an alternative to leaving secondary school early.

Last year our Government announced our biggest investment in skills in Australia in a generation through a package to modernise apprenticeships and work with industry on the identification of our future skills needs and reform of our national training system.

In fact we are providing an entitlement to an education or training place for all 15 to 24 year old Australians, which ensure they can complete a secondary school or vocational education certificate.

Breaking the cycle of intergenerational unemployment 

As we rightly focus on youth unemployment and youth opportunities post GFC it is timely to also acknowledge another cohort which have existed in my country, as in many of yours, for a period far preceding the GFC - those whose lives, whose families and whose neighbourhoods have known nothing but intergenerational unemployment.

In Australia our Government is clear that no child should grow up in a household where nobody is working.

We refuse to accept that a lifetime of welfare dependence is simply the ‘lot in life’ of some Australians, whose parents and even grandparents may have lived that way before them.

By working with young we can break the cycle of welfare dependence and end intergenerational unemployment.

We have put in place new policies to support teenage parents – who overwhelmingly have not completed secondary school and rarely make it back to do so - to re-engage with and complete secondary school and undertake trades and training, while providing access to almost zero-cost child care as a condition of their ongoing welfare provision.

We can and will continue to ensure that we have a strong safety net in place to support those who need our assistance but we do this of course as part of our focus on increasing our participation rate.

But we are also driven by a desire to spread the benefits and dignity that comes with work to those that have been excluded and not shared our prosperity for far too many years or generations.

Conclusion

For all of our countries’ young people having a job is about so much more than just a pay packet.

A job brings with it financial independence, dignity and pride, and a sense of social connectedness that is absolutely central to achieving a peaceful and just society.

As Employment and Labour Ministers it is our role to ensure that jobs and employment remain at the centre of G20’s work.

I look forward to working with you into the future, to make sure that this is the case – for the benefit of each of our countries’ future economies and each of our countries’ future generations.