Victoria’s unemployment and youth unemployment rates are at their highest levels in decades. In late 2014 the State’s unemployment rate hit 6.8 per cent, the highest it has reached since 2001 The average monthly youth unemployment rate for 2014 was 14.6 per cent, a level which we have not seen in Victoria since the 1990s.
On coming into office the Andrews Labor Government committed to creating 100,000 full-time jobs for unemployed Victorians over the next two years.
Back to Work Bill
The Government has made some progress on this commitment including the Back to Work Bill passing through parliament and is in the process of developing various plans to build the infrastructure promised prior to the election (i.e. the removal of level crossings, Melbourne Metro Rail and funding for suburban and country roads) . The Back to Work Bill establishes the scheme to subsidise the employment of unemployed or retrenched workers via a payroll tax deduction or direct support (for businesses not subject to payroll tax).
VCOSS Budget Submission
While Victorian Government’s actions are likely to provide much needed boost to employment across Victoria, more needs to be done to assist the most vulnerable Victorian job seekers.
VCOSS has outlined a series of practical proposals for tackling unemployment in our 2015-16 budget submission: Building a Victoria without poverty. These proposals included:
- The development and funding of a workforce participation plan as discussed in the Tackling Unemployment paper
- Resourcing the Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) to support youth employment and skills and training initiatives in local areas
- Further investment in a vulnerable youth re-engagement and employment program
Workforce Participation Plan
Prior to the November 2014 election, VCOSS released Tackling Unemployment, which laid out the key strategies for to help these Victorians get back to work.
Tackling unemployment recommended four interlinked strategies be pursued:
- Build vulnerable people’s skills and capabilities: If people are supported to participate fully in all levels of education, become job-ready and connect with suitable employers, they will have a much better chance of finding and maintaining secure work.
- Create the jobs vulnerable people need, where they need them: The Government should pursue economic development strategies that prioritise employment-intensive growth and yield jobs that can be filled by vulnerable Victorians, are secure and sustainable, and are in locations where jobs are scarce and also accessible for vulnerable people
- Develop inclusive and flexible workplaces: The Government should encourage employers to hire a more diverse workforce and adopt inclusive workplace practices and targets.
- Improve labour mobility and availability: The Government has announced some improvements to transport infrastructure but it also needs to invest in affordable housing and childcare.
Local Learning and Employment Networks
The state government can help identify local strategies and opportunities for young people to complete education and find work by continuing its investment in Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs). Whist the Victorian Government has allocated $32 million over four years to LLENs, this does not make up for the shortfall in Commonwealth funding, and required additional investment to ensure the success of programs.
LLENs take a place-based approach to tackling youth educational engagement and pathways to employment. They identify service gaps and coordinate responses by forming networks and partnerships.
Youth Re-engagement and Employment programs
Given the unacceptably high rate of youth unemployment, the Victorian Government can help young people disengaged from education, training and employment by investing in youth re-engagement and employment programs.
The VCOSS budget submission highlighted the successful, but now axed, pre-employment training programs, funded by the then Department of Business Innovation. These programs targeted vulnerable young people who faced multiple barriers to employment.
The VCOSS budget submission also highlighted the now axed Youth Connexions program. This highly successful program provided intensive, case-managed support that addresses the barriers to completing education faced by some young people.
The 2015-16 budget, to be presented in May 2015, presents an excellent opportunity for the Victorian Government to fund initiatives that will assist the most vulnerable Victorians improve their skills gain employment. VCOSS looks forward to further announcements in the budget to tackle unemployment.