Only last week the national jobless rate jumped to 6.4 per cent, the highest point since August 2002. 789,000 Australians are now out of work. Our unemployment rate is now higher than that of the United States – 6.4 compared with 6.2 – for the first time since 2007. Youth unemployment is particularly troubling. Unemployment for 15-24 year olds is now over sixteen percent – 16.1 – the highest level since 2001. In my home state of Victoria unemployment is an unacceptable 7 percent, the highest level for nearly 13 years.
Unemployment can feed on itself, damaging confidence and inducing a downward spiral. The Reserve Bank has signalled that Australia's jobless rate could remain high for the next two years, saying in its quarterly update on the Australian economy that it will be "elevated for some time yet". Yet despite all this the Liberal Government apparently wants to introduce a scheme where employers will be able to water down English-language requirements, skills benchmarks and minimum salaries. This represents a race to the bottom in employment standards, and a slap in the face to unemployed Australians.
In Australia we have over 1 million people from other countries on temporary visas who have work rights. I am even more strongly of the view that we need to cut back the migrant worker programs given last week’s revelations of widespread visa fraud in recent years. Anything up to 90 per cent of Skilled Migration visa applications could contain fraudulent claims about qualifications, or work experience etc.
The proposed scheme will exacerbate existing problems as employers will be able to hire semi-skilled workers without having to meet strict language, salary and training requirements.
If the Australian Government was sincere about reducing unemployment, it would not make it easy for employers to bring in overseas workers. It would urge them to employ unemployed Australians.