Paid employment crucial to society and economy

Australia has almost 1.8 million people looking for a job or for more work (Bigstock)

What if there was a way to give everyone who wanted to work a full-time job, asks Catholic Social Services Australia’s Joe Zabar. Source: Pro Bono Australia.

With its announcement of an overhaul of the Jobactive program, the Australian Labor Party last week made the first move of the year on employment policy. But with a federal election looming, we ought to prepare ourselves for a mantra of “jobs” and “the economy”.

Employment is a high priority policy for all governments. The Coalition regularly points to the 1.2 million jobs created since its election in 2013. That is, by any measure, a positive outcome.

The Business Council of Australia makes the impressive – albeit generous – claim that businesses employ 10 million of the 12 million people working in Australia, suggesting that a government strategy of focusing on private sector jobs growth is a sensible one.

In a market-based economy such as Australia’s, paid employment is critical to both a flourishing society and economy. As long as wages are sufficient, work offers individuals and families the means to purchase goods and services and to participate actively and meaningfully in our society.

For many, paid work also provides personal growth and an opportunity to contribute to a broader sense of common good.

Despite the 1.2 million jobs created under the Coalition and a headline unemployment rate of around 5 per cent, Australia still has some 680,000 people without work and another 1.1 million people looking for more work.

But what if there was a way to give everyone who wanted to work a full-time job? What if there was a way to provide a job that was near where someone lived, that provided all the rights and benefits of a minimum wage award-based job, but could be adapted to match an individual’s capability with the needs of the local community?

US economist Stephanie Kelton has proposed such a scheme. She is part of a group of new US economic thinkers advocating for a “job guarantee” program that provides employment to all who need work by drawing from the pool of people unemployed during recessions and shrinking as private sector employment recovers.

– Joe Zabar is the deputy chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.

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A job is the best form of welfare (Pro Bono Australia

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