The Federal Minister For Employment, Michaelia Cash says although WA’s youth unemployment figures are “disappointing”, she expressed optimism that Western Australians are ready for work due to the high participation rate.
During an exclusive twenty three minutes interview with reporter Ivan Leung, Minister Cash has responded comprehensively to youth unemployment related concerns such as “Kidult”, immigration, automation, jobs of the future, STEM education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Ms Cash admits Western Australia’s youth unemployment is higher than the national average, but says the Federal Government has a “huge focus on employment programs” helping to get WA youth “off welfare and into work”.
She added that under the Coalition Government, more than 100,000 young Australians got a job in the last financial year.
“I have always said as the employment minister, youth unemployment across Australia is too high, and it literally hovers between eleven and a half to twelve and a half percent,” Ms Cash said.
“That’s why as a government, we have a huge focus on employment programs that squarely aimed at getting our youth off welfare and into work.”
When asked whether successive government ignored the interest of Australian youths, Minister Cash disagreed saying the Federal Government funded employment programs squarely targeted at youths.
The recently introduced “Youth Jobs PATH” program was highlighted, where participants will receive an extra 200 dollars centrelink payment every fortnight as incentives.
At the end of the trial, employers will be eligible for a wage subsidy of 10,000 dollars with the criteria of ongoing work for at least 20 hours per week for six months.
“At the end of that program when you move into work, your employer pays you the salary,” Ms Cash said.
“But this (the program) is about getting our young people who in so many cases have never ever had a job, and are looking a long barrel down a pathway of welfare. That’s not good for them.”
“We want to give them the opportunity to undertake an internship, to get that work experience they so desperate need and move into employment.”
With the issue of elite perception between white and blue collar jobs identified during last week’s panel discussion on Part 3, a question was put to Minister Cash on what a good job is.
Ms Cash replied saying “Any job is a good job.”
“… I was lucky to be someone who went to university and worked in hospitality, what a fabulous opportunity that was for me because I have learned to work at really irregular hours. I have learnt customer service, soft skills that are needed into today’s workplace,” she said.
“Any job is a good job. And it’s up to you to determine what path way you want to go down. And it’s up to the government to ensure that the economy is out there creating jobs.”
Immigration Supplements The Australian Workforce
As the debate continues on whether migrants steal young people’s jobs, minister Cash believes that overseas students, backpackers and migrants supplement the Australian workforce.
A report published by the Productivity Commission revealed that overseas students, backpackers and immigrants made up 13 percent of Australia’s 17 – 24 years old workforce back in September 2015.
Ms Cash says backpackers supplement the local workforce by doing jobs that many Australians “just don’t want to do”.
“Our fruit needs to be picked, our vegetables they also need to be picked. If they are not picked, what happens then?” she said.
“I think we have a number of programs that we are so lucky to invite people come here from overseas, and certainly I see them as supplementing our local jobs market, and often doing jobs that local employers, particularly rural and regional Australia just can’t get people to undertake.”
She added that Australia is the “most successful immigration nation in the world”, at the same time saying that skill migrants enhances work force for local people by keeping businesses open.
“If the employer is unable to get that skilled person, what are they going to do? Are they going to close their business? I certainly hope not because it doesn’t work for anybody,” she said.
“To be able to then attract someone from overseas, who has that relevant skills set, who can come here add value to the employer. And in many cases, they bring their family, they beg down in the local community, I think that’s a good thing.”
“It enhances the workforce opportunities for local people because the employer stays open, and in so many cases, they are able to prosper, grow and create more jobs for Australians.”
Automation is nothing to be afraid of…
On the topic of automation taking over low skilled and entry level jobs, Ms Cash says young people should not fear automation as helps to upskill Australia’s workforce.
She believed that great opportunities will be there for Western Australian youths, as automation eliminates jobs that are dirty, dull or dangerous.
It comes after an OECD report this year highlighted that 36 percent of Australian jobs are at risk to automation.
Meanwhile, a report from Oxford Economics this year put Western Australia as the last three states to be vulnerable to automation, with an index score of 0.14 compared to most vulnerable state, South Australia at 0.42.
“I think what’s really exciting from a Western Australia perspective, as you know we are the world leaders particularly in Western Australia when it comes to automated mining,” Ms Cash stated.
“How amazing is that to be a world leader? And there are so many opportunities in that mining sector for our young people to go into.”
“I think there are great opportunities for our young people going forward, the opportunities will be there for them, absolutely!”
“Kidult” & STEM Education: Young People Can Be Independent
During Part 1 of the “Left Behind” series, the issue of “Kidult” has been highlighted for young people who are struggling to find work.
It’s also the result of higher cost of living and longer education, adding burden to the current family budget.
A research from the Australian Institute Of Family Studies, shows that more than two in five young adults (or 43%) aged 20 – 24 are still living with their parents, compared to 36% in 1981.
Despite the dramatic change in social situations, Ms Cash believes young Western Australians have the ability to become independent.
“Of course young people can be independent and the government is very much focused,” she said.
“Whether you are a young people unable to get a job or you are on welfare, or alternatively you are a young person making a decision of ‘Do I take a university education, or do I take a vocational education?’ ”
“What we are focused on, is making sure that you have the necessary skills that employers are telling us they need.”
Meanwhile on the topic of STEM Education, Minister Cash says the Federal Government has been addressing the decline in students on STEM subjects.
Furthermore, she acknowledged that STEM is the foundation of the jobs of the future.
“We recognized that so many jobs of the future, that basic foundation is going to be Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, otherwise known as STEM,” Ms Cash said.
“And certainly the education system does have a focus on that, to ensure that students are prepared for the jobs of the future.”
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Agenda: Where have they gone?
You may recall back in 2016, the Malcolm Turnbull led coalition government emphasized innovation and entrepreneurship agenda during the Federal Election.
So has the agenda disappeared and what has been done since then?
Before the interview concluded, Minister Cash affirmed that the Federal Government has been working hard to push innovation and create the jobs of the future.
On the topic on entrepreneurship, Ms Cash accepts the risks involve but says it’s a great alternative for people who don’t like nine to five jobs.
“It is great that in Australia we are still are that land, that if you are prepared to have a go, you deserve a fair go. And that’s what our Prime Minister is all about.” Ms Cash said.