The outgoing head of the Families Department, Jeff Harmer, is quite right to say the Government needs to explore policies to encourage disabled people and older Australians into work, to lift participation and productivity.
It is quite remarkable that on the one hand we are told there is a shortage of workers and high migration is needed to fill the gap, while on the other hand we have over 792,000 people receiving Disability Support Pensions – more than the number receiving unemployment benefits! Disability Support Pension numbers have grown over 30% over the past decade, now cover 5% of all Australians, and will cost $13 billion this financial year.
The first thing we need to do is to return the ‘skilled’ migration category to the 25,000 per annum it was in the middle of the 1990s. This will open up job opportunities for people not presently in the workforce, and lift our participation rate.
Dr Harmer is also right to say that there is a problem with middle class welfare, with family payments being made to people high up the income scale. Some of this money would be better spent in Universities and TAFES, giving people who are presently not in the workforce the education and skills they need to join the workforce.