Give unemployed a 'real chance': ACOSS

·2-min read

The Australian Council of Social Service has called for a commitment from the next government to achieve full and sustainable employment in light of rising interest rates.

The Reserve Bank has lifted Australia's cash rate to 0.35 per cent from 0.1 per cent.

ACOSS warns the increasing interest rates could jeopardise hard-won reductions in unemployment if the next government takes a hard line on budget spending.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie says it is one thing to reduce unemployment to the lowest level in two decades, but it has to be sustained "to give those locked out of work a real chance."

"Interest rates will inevitably rise above their historically low level, but we hope the RBA follows its own advice to hasten slowly from now on so that the benefits of full employment are realised," she says.

"Avoiding a rapid rise in interest rates would also ease the impact on people who have taken on high levels of debt, with little behind them, to break into our vastly over-priced housing market."

Dr Goldie says that major parties should rule out the spending cuts to essential services and safety nets that smothered job growth in 2014.

"Along with improved income supports for those struggling, the best way to ease cost of living pressures is to strive for full employment, to promote growth in wages and tackle the housing crisis," she said.

According to ACOSS, 850,000 people on income support in December 2021 received payments for more than a year. Despite labour and skills shortages, there are nine people for every entry-level job vacancy.

"People receiving unemployment payments are at the back of the job queue, not because they aren't trying, but because many employers are still wary of giving them a chance," she said.

"Only consistently low unemployment and a fresh investment in decent employment services, work experience and training programs will change that."

ACOSS is also calling for greater investment in a jobs and training guarantee for people unemployed long term.

The peak body would like to see greater partnerships with employers, unions and civil society to ease labour and skills shortages and to lift income support payments.

The author has written this story in a personal capacity.

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