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Employment white paper good news for migrant, refugees

5 October 20230 comments

The federal government’s recently released employment white paper is good news for marginalised jobseekers, including people newly arrived in the country, will benefit from the proposed reforms.

The white paper, titled ‘Working Future’, sets out five key areas for reform.

They include an overhaul of employment services arrangements, allowing pensioners to earn more before their pensions are impacted, more time for jobseekers to find work and a boost to TAFE places and apprenticeships.

CEO of migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia Cath Scarth welcomed the proposed reforms.   

“This is an opportunity to reset a system that does not serve vulnerable and marginalised jobseekers well. It is an opportunity to stop just ticking boxes and to start changing lives for the better,” Ms Scarth said.

“Despite repeated tweaks to the current employment services system, some providers still benefit from churning jobseekers through short-term outcome-based payments.

“This mean they are incentivised to place people into any job, no matter if it is a poor match for their skills and aspirations.

“Seeing legions of people placed in sub-optimal jobs is a drag on national productivity; and it does little for the self-esteem or career prospects of the jobseekers.

“Forced to take unrewarding jobs, people lose motivation and churn through the system, again and again.

“For migrants and a refugees this is particularly an egregious failing. Given more time to upskill and become familiar with the Australian job market and our workplace culture, migrants and refugees can make much larger contributions to Australia’s economy while also improving their own lives,” Ms Scarth said.   

The white paper commits to “protect the dignity and respect rights of individuals”, provide a pathway towards “decent jobs” and deliver “strong Australian Public Service stewardship in the system … to ensure that individuals are not left behind”.

“We welcome suggestions such as make mutual obligations less onerous. While jobseekers have a moral obligation to seek employment in return for the services they receive, it is counterproductive to make people go to ludicrous extremes to make sure there is not rorting,” she said.

“In the end the employment service system should be all about helping people overcome barriers to sustainable, fulfilling work,” she said.

Ms Scarth also welcomed plans for a ‘national skills passport’.

“This will provide employers consistent and equitable way of seeing and verifying a potential employee’s skills.

“It will make learning more flexible by giving students recognition of what they have achieved and it will make jobseekers more mobile and more able to find work across the country, especially in the regions or where there are vacancies,” she said.

Under the white paper, job seekers will be able to work for longer while retaining social security concessions, and changes to allow pensioners to work more before payments are reduced will become permanent, under two major welfare law reforms.

The Workforce Australia employment services model is also set for change after the white paper found although “the system may work relatively well for an average job seeker, it has failed those who are most disadvantaged”.

The government will also spend $9.1m on a business case to define the scope, outcomes and benefits of a national skills passport.

Business groups say the move will provide employers with a nationally consistent format to view and verify a potential employee’s skills, and make learning more flexible by giving students recognition of what they’ve already achieved when they switch degrees or institutions.