Raising labour force participation

In its annual report for 2006–07, the Australian Productivity Commission focused on the scope to raise labour force participation rates in Australia, and the policy challenges involved. Increased labour force participation can potentially make an important contribution to future prosperity, partly offsetting the effects of population ageing.

The Productivity Commission has identified three broad areas where reform can contribute to improved labour force participation outcomes:

  • improving the capacity of people to work, through policy measures that improve health, education and training
  • enhancing incentives to work, including measures directed at tax and income support arrangements
  • creating more flexible institutional arrangements, including work arrangements and childcare.

In the report, the commission emphasised that tackling policy related impediments to participation will require actions by all governments in Australia.

President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Councillor Paul Bell, said that for Local Government, attracting more women and older people is the key to beating the tight staff market.

“Local Government is taking initiative,” he said. “We have to adapt work practices and policies to become an employer of choice. The challenge is not to wait for governments to ‘fix’ the problem.

“Councils are providing flexible family friendly work arrangements and responding to the needs of our valuable staff members. People can expect to see more older workers and women employed in Council operations. Women, in particular, like our enlightened flexible, family friendly work arrangements.”

Paul Bell said Councils understand the need to be more strategic in combatting the skills crisis, but the problem is endemic. He said individual Councils can only do so much, particularly when budgets are tight. Paul Bell added that the Commonwealth move to provide a lot more training places (up to 450,000) is very welcome.