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Is education or immigration the answer to our skills shortage? We asked 50 economists

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Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is part of The Conversation’s series looking at Labor’s jobs summit. Read the other articles in the series here.


Investing in Australians’ education is far more important than immigration in resolving the nation’s skills shortages, according to leading economists surveyed in the lead-up to this week’s jobs and skills summit.

The 50 top Australian economists polled by the Economic Society of Australia and The Conversation are recognised by their peers as leaders in their fields, including economic modelling, labour markets and public policy.

Asked to select from a list of topics to be discussed at the summit, and which offered the most promise of delivering better outcomes, two-thirds picked “education and skills”. Only one-third picked “migration policy”.



The biggest concerns among those who picked “education and skills” relate to school and vocational education.

The Australian National University’s Bruce Chapman, who designed Australia’s higher education loans scheme (HECS) in the late 1980s, described funding for vocational education as a “mess”.

Vocational training is a “mess”

“There are up-front fees alongside no-charge regimes, both of which are poor and inequitable,” Chapman said. “A small number of courses offer income-contingent loans along the lines of the university scheme, but most do not.”

Universities have income-contingent loans that don’t require payments until the recipient’s income climbs above A$48,361.

If applied to all vocational education courses (including TAFE courses), it would allow reasonable charges and protect students from hardships and default.

“Governments should have been aware of this for the 34 years that HECS has existed, but have shown no leadership in the area,” Chapman said.

High school outcomes remain poor

Saul Eslake said all levels of Australian education – from primary school, up to vocational education and universities – are “failing to equip Australians with the skills required for the jobs of both today and the future”.

Among the many causes of that failure were inequities in how education funding is distributed, which have led to sustained gaps between Australia’s high and low socio-economic students’ results.

Paul Frijters suggested levelling the playing field between private and public schools by ditching subsidies to private schools, banning mobile phones in schools, and allowing children with low grades to repeat years instead of setting standards so low they were generally promoted.

Almost half of those surveyed wanted measures to promote productivity. Julie Toth, formerly with the Australian Industry Group and now with the digital property settlement company PEXA, suggested shifting governments’ focus away from “creating local jobs” to automating tasks wherever possible.

“We should be aiming to reduce the need for lower-skill and lower-value tasks and jobs, rather than simply seeking more bodies to do them,” she said.

Full working rights for refugees

Of those who nominated “migration policy” as a priority, two warned against using more migration to fix skills shortages. Labour market economist Sue Richardson said she knew of no evidence that migration increased either productivity or the living standards of pre-existing Australians.

“It does increase aggregate gross domestic product,” she said. “But that is just because the population is bigger”. It enabled Australia to avoid a close examination of why it did not generate the skills it needed itself.

Margaret Nowak of Curtin University pointed to the absurdity of not giving refugees and those awaiting determination an unfettered right to work. She said it would be an “easy early win”.

“We already have in this country a ready and willing supply of labour,” Nowak said. “We should get rid of the paranoia and ideology inherent in the current administration of the policy and welcome our resident refugees into full participation and education rights.”

Many economists also nominated workforce participation, care jobs and equal pay for women as key priorities for the summit.

Calibrating care

Several, including RMIT University’s Leonora Risse, called for more accurate measurement of the benefits generated by the care sector, “in the same way as we compute the cost/benefit dividend of government investments in other infrastructure”.

Risse said a proper measure of the economy-wide value of the care sector could be factored into the budget, and used to provide a mechanism to lift the wages and status of care workers.

Macquarie University’s Lisa Magnani said the pandemic had shown Australia has a crisis of care work “manifested in the shortage of teachers, in overworked hospital workers, in exhausted parents”. Traditional measures of labour productivity failed to capture the impact of care jobs on wellbeing, as well as their economic value.

Alison Preston of Macquarie University said health care and social assistance had become Australia’s biggest employing industry, eclipsing, retail and construction.

Specific measures to assist the health care and social assistance sector’s 76% female workforce included extending parental leave, minimising the need to hold multiple jobs, and setting and monitoring employment standards.

One of the 50 surveyed economists nominated a summit priority that was not on the proffered list. John Quiggin of the University of Queensland nominated “full employment”, which he thought had been the original idea for the summit.

Regardless of the present state of the labour market it was important to renew to full employment in the 1945 Employment White Paper, and to consider measures along the lines of the proposed Green New Deal in the United States.


Detailed responses:

The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Responses (999)


 

Adrian Blundell-Wignall

Equal opportunities and pay for women Migration policy Education and skills

Education and skills: Engineering universities similar to those in Sweden ? they are nothing to do with business school MBAs. Companies are involved: they work with the universities on setting the curriculum; provide all students with systematic work experience (not box ticking). 70% of CEOs come from these universities, and Sweden has a formidable record in creating global businesses that don't depend on digging holes and building houses. National productivity growth is the highest in the OECD.


 

Alison Booth

Green jobs Care jobs Equal opportunities and pay for women


 

Markus Brueckner

Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity Macroeconomic policy


 

Matthew Butlin

Migration policy Workforce participation Education and skills

Migration policy I see all three areas as very interrelated in a coherent strategy over the short (up to 2 years) medium (2-8 years) and long term (8+ years). Migration ameliorates immediate skill gaps (in conjunction with simplifying regulatory procedures and upping the staff in this area). It needs to link with a domestic skills agenda (again with simplified arrangements - realistically this is medium to long term) and measures to lift women?s labour force participation. For the latter, access to childcare and greater employment flexibility are key strategies.


 

Lisa Cameron

Equal opportunities and pay for women Industrial relations Workforce participation

Industrial relations Wage growth is needed to provide lower paid Australians with an adequate standard of living. That wages haven't increased in response to worker shortages is a reflection of the power imbalance in the labour market today. Industrial relations reforms that return some power to workers would help in this respect. Rather than raising wages, employers look to be relying on an increase in labour supply through migration to fill their job vacancies at the existing low wages. Increased migration may be a reasonable response to shortages in occupations and industries where we do not currently have a sufficient supply of particular skills, it is however a lazy response as it doesn't address the underlying issues associated with us not training sufficient workers in some areas and not paying sufficiently high wages and/or having good enough work conditions to keep people in these sectors. I am also concerned about there being sufficient opportunities for Australian youth - particularly those who have struggled to obtain the skills, both technical and social, to enter the labour market in the past. The tight labour market is providing many of these young people with the chance to gain on-going employment for the first time. Gaining a foothold in the labour market for these young people potentially changes their entire life trajectory, with benefits to mental health, reduction in welfare dependence and the accompanying long term benefits to the country's budgetary position.


 

Fabrizio Carmignani

Equal opportunities and pay for women Macroeconomic policy Broader reforms to promote productivity

Broader reforms to promote productivity The well-being of the Australian community in the longer term critically hinges on sustainable productivity growth. This in turn is primarily driven by innovation. It seems to me that this has been neglected for too long, while the policy discussion has often focused on the short-term cycle rather than the long-term trend. We need a policy framework to encourage entrepreneurship, capital ventures, and R&D (noting that entrepreneurship is something different and more than just running and managing a business). And we have to avoid the temptation of "picking winners", i.e. determining ex-ante which sectors or areas of the economy will deliver the next wave of innovation and productivity growth and invest only in those sectors. This type of approach is too much at risk of becoming the type of heavy centralized industrial policy that failed in so many countries between the 1950s and the 1980s. What I think we would need instead is a policy framework to support innovation and new ideas and activities across the economy, allowing for the process of "creative destruction" to take place and accompanying this process with a significant investment in active labour market policies and welfare for workers.


 

Bruce Chapman

Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity

Education and skills A major issue is the financing arrangements related to Vocational Education and Training (VET). VET funding is a mess and has been for a long time; there are up-front fees alongside no charge regimes, both of which are poor and inequitable. A small number of courses offer income-contingent loans along the lines of the university HECS-HELP scheme, but most do not. A universal broadly-based loans scheme for vocational education (including TAFE) along the lines of HECS-HELP would allow reasonable charges for these courses; money which could be used to expand and improve the system. Income-contingent loans would protect students from repayment hardships and default and put VET on the same healthy footing as hithe rest of post-secondary education. The VET system will not deliver propitious and fair outcomes until there is fundamental income-contingent loans reform. Governments should have been aware of this for the 34 years that HECS has existed, but have shown no leadership in the area.


 

Deborah Cobb-Clark

Macroeconomic policy Broader reforms to promote productivity Education and skills

Broader reforms to promote productivity We need to develop measures to deal with supply chain issues, including labour supply constraints, in order to lift productivity.


 

Lin Crase

Macroeconomic policy Broader reforms to promote productivity

Broader reforms to promote productivity Productivity gains ? a key to higher living standards ? can't be decoupled from the way broader factors influence incentives. The Australian taxation system embeds many well-known flaws that drive perverse investment behaviors; that's not helping efforts to increase productivity. But reforming taxation is hard, which is why successive governments have simply kicked it down the road. Ultimately, this will have to be tackled, so why not start with the summit?


 

Kevin Davis

Green jobs Workforce participation Education and skills


 

Brian Dollery

Workforce participation Migration policy Industrial relations

Migration policy The Labor Party will try to force through high migration, despite its negative impact on real wages. The ACTU will display its Gramscian tendencies by agreeing.


 

Uwe Dulleck

Migration policy Education and skills Green jobs

Migration policy Migration policy is an easy fix, with the additional benefit that Australian experience and evidence/data strongly supports a relatively liberal skill based migration policy as a policy tool to foster growth and productivity growth. A focus on getting education and skills aligned with where the future lies (and Green jobs play an important role here) will be important to ensure sustainable growth, and the ability of the Australian economy to adapt to future needs. The requirement to adapt and change will be faster in the future than it is now, and education and skills that are flexible and transferable, will be important to manage the needed changes.


 

Chris Edmond

Care jobs Industrial relations Equal opportunities and pay for women

Industrial relations Reviving enterprise bargaining would enable increases in productivity that are fairly shared.


 

ALLAN FELS

Migration policy Education and skills Care jobs

Migration policy This is the best and quickest way of meeting today's problems but a longer term emphasis on education and skills is critical.


 

Gigi Foster

Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity Care jobs

Care jobs By "care jobs" I assume is meant jobs that are mainly about providing care for others ? including childcare, care for the disabled, and care for the elderly. Not only are these jobs at the top of the list of the types of work that most require and sustain our humanity, something that has been under significant strain over the past few years, but they also carry the potential to be hugely promoting of human wellbeing, through lifting the quality of life of those cared for as well as providing deeply meaningful work to the carers. They also liberate other labour sitting within our societies to be deployed elsewhere, as desired by the parents, children, or other people who presently do more care work than they would prefer to do if the alternative ? i.e., to buy at least some of that care on the market ? were acceptable, accessible, and affordable. Finally, high-quality child care in particular can make a significant impact on the health and happiness of future Australians. To invest effectively in care jobs requires relaxing much of the red tape that surrounds them, including overly burdensome formal education requirements, while empowering local care organisations (including family day care providers, community aged-care centre operators, and so on) to make decisions in line with market incentives and be periodically peer-audited rather than perennially hamstrung by government bureaucracy. If the government wants to help more, it could set up an online clearinghouse for the demand and supply sides of these markets to find, rate, and exchange information about one another.


 

John Freebairn

Industrial relations Broader reforms to promote productivity Education and skills

Industrial relations Reforms to facilitate effective enterprise bargaining between individual businesses and their employees in order to seek, sometimes experiment with, and then adopt new technology and market opportunities is vital to raise productivity in the private sector to fund higher wages and incomes. A return to industry agreements stifles the incentives and rewards for individual businesses to innovate. Government can set minimum standards, including minimum wage rates, safety, and other attributes.


 

Paul Frijters

Migration policy Education and skills

Education and skills The government is directly involved in the production of education, setting of curricula, and migration rules so that's where it can make the most difference. On migration, reopening the doors to skilled migration and ditching all the COVID-theater that makes living in Australia like a prison experience is a no-brainer. On education, I suggest a few technically easy, but politically extremely hard, reforms: . level the playing field between public and private schools (so ditching the many subsidies to private) . ban the presence of social media (mobiles, etc.) in schools and universities . allow children with low grades to repeat classes (instead of having standards low enough that everyone can always follow) . renew the content of the curriculum . raise curriculum and exam levels across the board so as to increase expectations and learning habits . cut out the profiteers in universities and other tertiary institutions (most of its management and ministry staff) In the other areas mentioned in the poll the government has far less influence than in the production of education and migration rules.


 

Lata Gangadharan

Workforce participation Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity

Workforce participation Better child care access and facilities would increase workforce participation and would also improve productivity.


 

RICHARD HOLDEN

Workforce participation Migration policy Education and skills

Industrial relations The enterprise bargaining system is not working well and the Fair Work Commission's better off overall test needs to be reformed. It is currently far too rigid and it's preventing win-win deals being struck.


 

Guyonne Kalb

Workforce participation Migration policy Equal opportunities and pay for women

Equal opportunities and pay for women Better pay for caring jobs (nursing, childcare, aged care, disability care) would go a long way in increasing female workforce participation, and ensure fairer payment for the people working in these jobs, many of whom are women. Better payment and conditions would make these jobs better career options and provide better opportunities for women leading to reduced financial vulnerability. At the same time it would be easier to attract people into these careers which is likely to ease the current work pressure and further improve work conditions.


 

Michael Keating

Education and skills Industrial relations Macroeconomic policy

Education and skills The measures for education and skills are obvious ? we just need more. In industrial relations the most useful changes would be to improve the security of casual workers jobs and prevent wage theft, and there needs to be an increase in the pay in education and caring industries. Macroeconomic policy is generally on the right track, but the demands for services, including in education and training and care services, will not be met without an increase in taxation revenue as a share of GDP.


 

Geoffrey Kingston

Migration policy Education and skills Macroeconomic policy

Macroeconomic policy Sustained rises in real wages go hand in hand with sustained rises in the ratios of physical and human capital to the labour force. The ratio of physical capital to the labour force was stagnant for most of the last decade. This could be rectified by lowering tax and regulatory burdens on business. The ratio of human capital to the labour force could be lifted by making vocational courses more appealing and accessible. Finally, unskilled immigration could be moderated.


 

Michael KNOX

Migration policy Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity

Migration policy The intake of skilled migrants needs to be rapidly increased.


 

Emily Lancsar

Equal opportunities and pay for women Care jobs Education and skills


 

Guay Lim

Workforce participation Broader reforms to promote productivity Migration policy

Workforce participation I think a framework around the 3Ps - population, productivity and participation - would help keep the summit focussed on the big picture. Many of the priorities listed (such as green jobs, care jobs, digital jobs) are specific suggestions about building the skills base, enhancing capacity and creating opportunities.


 

Elisabetta Magnani

Care jobs Migration policy Green jobs Industrial relations Education and skills Equal opportunities and pay for women

Care jobs Care jobs, those jobs that nurture future workers, regenerate the current workforce, and maintain those who cannot work, are essential for the proper functioning of our society and to support Australia's productive sphere so it can achieve its full potential. Traditionally these care jobs are performed by women, often from racial and ethnic minority groups, who often receive low wages or no wages. Traditional measures of labour productivity fail to capture the impact of care jobs on wellbeing, thus leaving policy makers with ill-equipped economic indicators to measure performance of care sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the crisis of care jobs in the spotlight. From nursing workers to teachers to parents caring for children in online learning modes, Australia has experienced an exacerbation of the crisis of care work, which manifested in the shortage of teachers, in overworked hospital workers, in exhausted parents. The jobs and skills summit could establish an agenda of policy actions to support care jobs' wages (both in absolute and in relative terms), improve career and skilling opportunities, further develop and apply economic indicators that capture the impact of these jobs on welfare, and implement overdue reforms to fund care jobs, particularly in the public sector, fairly and adequately.


 

Leslie Martin

Care jobs Migration policy Green jobs


 

Margaret McKenzie

Rebuilding domestic manufacturing capability Care jobs Industrial relations

Care jobs Outsourced jobs including care jobs must be brought back into the public sector, and into direct employment. There is no real reason for outsourcing except suppression of wages and conditions. It results in clear declines in quality of service which are exacerbated in areas of market failure, and which regulation cannot really address. This will also stop the haemorrhage of tax revenue into excess private profits which are not even being reinvested in productive capital. The disastrous ?experiment? of outsourcing which has seen higher rates of job insecurity and casual work than in comparable countries and falls in real wages, needs to be ended. Industrial relations reforms to assist this are vital, as is an innovative climate sensitive industry policy supported by publicly funded universities and the CSIRO.


 

Warwick McKibbin

Broader reforms to promote productivity Education and skills Workforce participation

Broader reforms to promote productivity The key to raising wages and creating high quality jobs is to raise productivity and that requires a focus on tax reform and clear policies to support the climate transition.


 

Flavio Menezes

Education and skills Workforce participation Broader reforms to promote productivity

Broader reforms to promote productivity We need to look again at whether our competition policy framework (our competition law and enforcement efforts) can deal effectively with any challenges arising from the increase in ownership concentration and the digital economy. Competition (or the lack of) affects productivity ? firms that face less competitive pressures have less incentive to innovate. The reform of the tax and welfare systems is also key to increase labour productivity and workforce participation, which in turn will play an important role in overcoming labour shortages. Taxation efficiency - and the way the tax system interacts with the welfare system ? impacts on productivity because taxes impose economic costs by changing the behaviour of individuals and businesses. We need to finish the job that we started in 2010, with very little progress since then.


 

James Morley

Migration policy Broader reforms to promote productivity Macroeconomic policy

Migration policy Historically, Australia has done well from an economic point of view out of being open to migration and with a focus on skills of migrants. Such policies are always at risk of being stopped by nativist, populist political considerations. I hope the summit reaffirms support for keeping Australia on the path of being an open country with a highly diverse and skilled migrant population.


 

Margaret Nowak

Education and skills Equal opportunities and pay for women Broader reforms to promote productivity

Migration policy There would be some easy early wins in the area of migration policy. First is to overhaul the policy in relation to refugees who are already here and either waiting for determination of status or on a range of restrictive visas. The whole tenor of this policy as currently administered makes no sense at all. Some of our most successful immigration in the postwar period was with refugees who have contributed hugely to Australia. We already have in this country a ready and willing supply of labour. We should get rid of the paranoia and ideology inherent in the current administration of the policy and welcome our resident refugees into full participation and education rights. And we need to unblock the visa application process through simplification and an increase in resourcing.


 

A Abigail Payne

Education and skills Migration policy Equal opportunities and pay for women

Education and skills The state of young adults obtaining good jobs, let alone being employed after leaving school, should be considered a thorn in Australia's side. While much attention is paid to VET and apprenticeships (as it should be), I worry that we have lost a focus on what happens in high school to enable youth from all walks of life to pursue a range of opportunities that reflects their potential and their interests. We should be taking seriously the notion of lifelong learning, considering how to provide positive transitions from high school into further education and training and embrace the importance of all institutions that provide this education and training beyond high school.


 

Alison Preston

Workforce participation Equal opportunities and pay for women Care jobs

Care jobs The last few decades has seen considerable change in the composition of the labour market. Since 2000 there has been a marked decline in manufacturing and a market increase in employment within the Health Care and Social Assistance sector. The latter is now the largest in terms of employment numbers. Women account for nearly 80% of the Health Care and Social Assistance workforce. Their employment conditions (job quality, working hour arrangements and wages) require urgent attention if labour is to be attracted and retained in this sector. The Work + Family Policy Roundtable (W+FPR) proposes numerous measures that would materially deliver better outcomes for Australians. Examples include . improving working time security . improving wages . minimising the need for multiple jobholding . extending the current parental leave scheme to 26 weeks with incentives for partners to share in caring, properly fund quality care . setting, monitoring and regulating employment standards of service providers . ensuring decent wages and career pathways . progressing equal pay and ensuring women?s contributions in care jobs are properly valued . eschewing any requirement of comparisons of feminised and masculinised work


 

John Quiggin

.

Full Employment, the original proposed topic of the Summit. The government should restate the commitment to full employment given in the 1945 White Paper, and consider measures from the list above in the light of that commitment. That would include pro-employment fiscal policy, more human services jobs (health and education generally, not just care) and a Green New Deal along the lines proposed in the US in 2021.


 

Mala Raghavan

Care jobs Digital jobs Green jobs

Care jobs Care jobs broadly cover three areas: health care, community care, and childcare are currently facing significant labour shortages. These shortages need to be immediately addressed to help improve people's well-being, which in turn helps to improve workforce participation and productivity. Regarding digital jobs, digitalization is a technological platform for all businesses to be competitive. Digital jobs are the backbone for building domestic manufacturing capabilities and promoting productivity. A focus on green jobs is essential in the long term to fulfil Australia's commitment to achieving the net-zero target by 2050. Education and skills need retooling in green jobs and policies.


 

Sue Richardson

Migration policy Broader reforms to promote productivity Education and skills

Migration policy In my view, Australia has relied much too heavily on migration as a solution to any labour supply problem. It always seems to be a cheap and easy fix, but there is no evidence that I am aware of that migration increases productivity or per capita GDP. It does increase aggregate GDP, but that is just because the population is bigger. It also enables employers and our skills development system to avoid a close examination of why we do not generate the skills that we need, and what needs to be done to ensure that we do. I am also of the view that migration is not just about providing workers for employers. It has a much greater impact on our society than that. I think that judicious migration is very beneficial to the economic and social life of Australia. But it should not be used as an easy short term fix to labour/skill shortages.


 

Leonora Risse

Equal opportunities and pay for women Industrial relations Care jobs

Equal opportunities and pay for women The fact that the issue of gender inequality has been so neglected and poorly understood by the outgoing government means there is now deep scope for changes to government policy to have a big impact. We need to invest in ways to more accurately measure the society-wide benefits that the care sector generates, in the same way that we compute the cost/benefit dividend of many other government investments such as physical infrastructure. The recurrent benefits of investing in care can then be factored into the budget and fiscal outlook. Properly measuring the economy-wide value of the care sector will then provide a mechanism to lift the wages and status of care workers. Industrial relations reform will play a role. Instilling the principle of gender equity into the objectives of the Fair Work Act will be an important mechanism for addressing the shortcomings in current wage-setting processes that perpetuate gender inequities. Broader reforms to productivity matter for fuelling economic prosperity, but we also need to re-evaluate how the benefits of productivity growth are distributed across the economy. There is no guarantee that productivity gains will translate into higher real wages for workers. As a potential policy lever, government subsidies for businesses to invest in capital and technology could be made conditional on proving that these investments are translating into higher labour productivity and flowing through to higher wages for workers. Facilitating Australia's transition to a green economy should also be high on the agenda. As well as take us a step towards tackling the destructive effects of climate change, this will open up opportunities for new high-value industries.


 

Stefanie Schurer

Macroeconomic policy Education and skills Green jobs

Green jobs Australia needs to catch up speedily with its Net Zero emission commitments. Australia is one of the very few countries in the OECD which has not yet achieved a decoupling of CO2 emissions and economic growth. https://www.theguardian.com/business/commentisfree/2021/jun/06/australia-looks-set-to-lose-its-opportunity-to-decouple-gdp-growth-from-carbon-emissions For this reason, it is imperative for the government to generate the incentives that help businesses create green jobs and that help universities and the vocational training system (such as TAFE) to build the skills to match future demand for green job workers. Thus, macroeconomic policy (fiscal policy, trade policy, industry policy) will be an important focus of the Jobs and Skills summit. Fiscal policy has to create such incentives such as subsidising green jobs generation and by penalising companies and financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel industries. Industry policy could focus on providing subsidies to implement feasibility studies for green energy production. One such example is the HySupply Study, a German-Australian feasibility study on Hydrogen generation and export. The project will create 8,000 green jobs. Green hydrogen can be exported worldwide at relatively low cost. https://english.bdi.eu/article/news/hysupply/


 

Jeffrey Sheen

Education and skills Broader reforms to promote productivity Migration policy

Migration policy Simplifying and relaxing skilled migrant criteria and improving their employment conditions will help resolve the skilled shortfall and stimulate much needed productivity growth.


 

Nigel Stapledon

Workforce participation Broader reforms to promote productivity

Broader reforms to promote productivity The link between productivity and real incomes/wages is pretty clear. The government and the Fair Work Commission cannot defy gravity and lift real wages if productivity remains stagnant. The one caveat to that is that when Australia receives high prices for its resource exports, the world gifts us higher incomes for a period as they did during the resources boom, then follows a period in which real wages either fall or grow less slowly. Understanding why real incomes rise/fall perhaps helps us avoid "bad ideas" which appear attractive but will hurt productivity - and (rebadged) bad ideas touted as "reform" have a habit of being resurrected at these summits. How do measures to rebuild manufacturing capability (read subsidies) not hurt productivity and real wages? Subsidising some vital areas such as defence-related industries (but not submarines) can be justified, but let's be clear on the cost-benefit (case by case) of going down this track. Certainly and surely history tells us no case can be made for subsidies of things like building electric vehicles, or solar panels for that matter. On workforce participation, let's look at the disincentives to people working. We love our system of means testing income support (Number one in the world, or close to it) but generally fail to recognise the disincentives (to work or continuing to work) it generates.


 

Julie Toth

Workforce participation Broader reforms to promote productivity Equal opportunities and pay for women Digital jobs

Broader reforms to promote productivity Reforms that promote genuine productivity improvements are the key to growing living standards & prosperity for us all. We need to think more broadly and creatively about how to lift our collective outputs and/or reduce our required inputs across a range of industries, occupations and tasks, rather than simply calling for more people to do them. For example . reduce the time required for repetitive administrative and reporting tasks for professionals in health, education, aged care and other large industries . enable more retail and hospitality businesses to implement automated checkout, payment and meal ordering systems, by ensuring that all locations have adequate digital services and telecoms network coverage. Including in regional locations . enable a greater range of financial, property and government transactions to be automated and conducted online, with nationally consistent and accessible digital platforms . shift our national and state governments' traditional policy focus away from 'creating local jobs' and towards 'boosting productivity' wherever possible. We should be aiming to reduce the need for lower-skill and lower-value tasks and jobs, rather than simply seeking more bodies to do them. The same applies to purely transactional and administrative tasks that exist mainly to meet regulatory, reporting, consultative and security objectives. Can we do these tasks in a smarter, more efficient way? Can they be automated or consolidated?


 

Joaquin Vespignani

Education and skills

Education and skills Improving education policies and skills for the labor force is critical for the long-term prosperity of Australia. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development?s recent studies show that a high level of education is associated with greater satisfaction with life, more robust civic engagement, and better-perceived health. According to the latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses the quality of education, Australia is quite behind other developed comparable countries. Australia ranked globally only 29th, 17th and 16th in mathematics, reading and science, which are vital skills for the future labor force.


 

Rachel Ong ViforJ

Education and skills Care jobs Workforce participation

Workforce participation Especially among mature age jobseekers, this is an important priority. The population is aging and unemployment rates are at historically low levels. Yet, there remain significant barriers to workforce participation by older persons.


 

Beth Webster

Green jobs Broader reforms to promote productivity Digital jobs


 

Danielle Wood

Education and skills Migration policy Care jobs

Migration policy Of the many important issues on the agenda for the summit, migration policy seems to me to be the lowest hanging fruit. Grattan nstitute work (see summary here: https://grattan.edu.au/news/making-skilled-migration-better-not-just-bigger-should-be-the-priority-at-the-jobs-and-skills-summit/ ) highlights that shifting the composition of the skilled permanent and temporary migration schemes would deliver both economic and fiscal dividends. Abolishing poor performing visas like the Business Investment visa and getting rid of clunky skills shortages lists (which particularly disadvantage dynamic sectors like tech) and replacing them with wage thresholds would increase our ability to attract the high skill, high wage migrants that will deliver the biggest economic benefits for Australians.