Budget 2012-13: Getting Australians job ready and into work

Monday, 14 May, 2012

The Gillard government has announced that the 2012-2013 budget will support jobs, building on an investment in skills, training and assistance. It was claimed that protecting jobs has been “the number one priority of the Gillard government from day one”, with the following measures intended to reflect that commitment.

Skills and training

This budget will provide $43 million in skills investment to ensure more Australians can access the training they need to improve their employment prospects. The latest tranche of the National Workforce Development Fund will support 130 new workplace skills projects, with an additional 15,000 individuals benefitting from training. The government will also invest $6.5 million in funding to develop and expand the My Skills website and $18.1 million over four years to establish three Australian Skills Centres of Excellence.

These initiatives will complement the $1.75 billion National Partnership Agreement secured by the Prime Minister at the latest Council of Australian Governments meeting, which will enable 375,000 additional students over five years to complete their qualifications, and improve training enrolments and completions in high-level skills and among key groups of disadvantaged students, including Indigenous Australians.

The focus on skills and education has been welcomed by industry figures. Jim Barrett, Executive Director of the Australian Constructors Association, said: “Skill shortages remain a significant risk for the development of the industry’s productive capacity over the next few years and the focus on skills and education is welcomed.”

Australian Industry Group also approved of the emphasis on skills, with Chief Executive Innes Willcox applauding both “the strength of the ongoing commitment to higher education, training and skills” and “the initiatives to establish a Manufacturing Technology Centre and Australian Skills Centres of Excellence”.

It was further noted by Willcox that the increase in the level of permanent immigration for 2012-13 to 190,000 will help address skill shortages and is in line with Ai Group submissions. However, he criticised the changes to the tax treatment of Living Away From Home allowances and benefits, claiming this “will exacerbate the difficulties for business in attracting highly skilled employees to fill positions away from their home”.

Encouraging parents to participate in work

Changes to parenting payment

From 1 January 2013, there will be a more generous income test for single principal carer parents on Newstart Allowance, with a single lower taper rate of 40 cents in the dollar for income above $62 a fortnight.

Eligibility for income support for parents will be made more equitable by the ending of grandfathering provisions from Parenting Payment. This means that all parents in the same circumstances, irrespective of when they first applied for income support, will be treated the same. Parenting Payment recipients previously covered by grandfathering arrangements will be provided with assistance.

Childcare assistance

This budget will make it easier for parents with young children in receipt of income support to return to work by extending the reach of the popular Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance (JETCCFA) payment. An additional $225.1 million over four years will enable 130,000 families to access this assistance.

JETCCFA provides help with the cost of approved childcare for eligible parents undertaking activities such as job search, work, study or rehabilitation as part of an Employment Pathway Plan to help them enter or re-enter the workforce. The government is now targeting this assistance so that parents who receive it are undertaking the qualifications that will most increase their chances to re-enter the workforce.

Willcox said, “The greater emphasis on incentives to encourage the workforce of mature-aged Australians is an important contribution to boosting workforce participation.” This statement can therefore be applied to these parents as well.

New employer incentives for disadvantaged job seekers

The Gillard government is delivering a range of new employer incentive initiatives to encourage businesses to employ long-term unemployed and people with disabilities. These include:

  • Wage Connect - This began on 1 January this year and provides job seekers with the opportunity to gain paid work and to transition to greater financial independence. At the same time, employers are able to offset the costs of wages and training for the first six months a person is employed. There have been almost 4000 job placements as a result of this incentive so far.
  • Disability Employment Broker program - A $1 million discretionary grants program will start from 1 July 2012 to fund up to 10 projects to improve employment outcomes for Disability Employment Services participants. The projects will target small-to-medium employers in regional locations and will help create job opportunities for people with disability by building relationships with employers and industry groups.

The government is also supporting Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to deliver the ‘Think Outside the Box Campaign’ and is providing funding for Disability Employment Australia to raise awareness with employers of the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Willcox said, “Ai Group will watch the impact on business of the adjustments to Commonwealth employer incentives.”

Tackling entrenched disadvantage and roadblocks to work

This year, the government is trialling new approaches to tackle entrenched disadvantage in 10 locations, focusing on getting young parents back to school and in training, and helping jobless families with children into work. The locations are Kwinana in Western Australia; Playford in South Australia; Hume and Greater Shepparton in Victoria; Burnie in Tasmania; Bankstown, Shellharbour and Wyong in New South Wales; and Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland.

New participation requirements for young parents in these communities commenced on 1 January this year. From 1 July, around 22,000 jobless families on long-term income support will also be required to meet new participation requirements.

Income management and increased financial and family support services will also be rolled out in five of the 10 trial sites from 1 July 2012 to ensure that welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children.

Reforming the Disability Support Pension

The government is investing $3 billion in disability employment services and has reformed Disability Support Pension (DSP) assessments, so that people who apply for DSP - other than those with a severe impairment or illness - need to show they have tried to find work before they can be eligible to receive the payment.

Assessments are now conducted by Senior Job Capacity Assessors employed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and are supported by advice from DHS’s Health Professional Advisory Unit, resulting in more thorough assessments of claims. Revised Impairment Tables, replacing those from 1997, are intended to ensure that people who apply for the DSP are assessed based on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot do.

From 1 July this year, further reforms will be introduced to encourage greater participation in the workforce by DSP recipients, including:

  • New participation requirements for recipients under the age of 35 with some capacity to work;
  • More generous rules to allow all people receiving the DSP to work up to 30 hours a week and still receive DSP, subject to income and assets tests; and
  • Supporting employers to take on more DSP recipients through new financial incentives.

Helping more people into jobs in remote Australia

From 1 July 2013, the new $1.5 billion Remote Jobs and Communities Program will provide a more integrated and flexible approach to employment and participation services for people living in remote areas of Australia.

The program will see jobseekers assisted by a single provider with a permanent presence in their region, ensuring they are receiving better support to get the skills needed to get a job. This will provide people with better service on the ground, rather than the fly-in-fly-out support that currently operates in many places. It will also ensure people who are not working are participating in activities that contribute to developing strong and sustainable communities.

Job seekers will get personalised support from this single, local point of call, ensuring they are assisted to have the right skills needed to match local job opportunities.

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