Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Invest to address social need and jobs

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The rate of unemployment in Australia has reached its highest level in more than a decade. Unemployment jumped to 6.1% in September, and with the more cuts slated in the public sector this number is set to rise further.

The decline of the mining boom will see fewer jobs in that sector. When taken together with a crippled manufacturing sector and a decrease in construction, things are not looking bright on the jobs front.

Manufacturing has slumped in recent years. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell by 13% between 2000 and 2013. NSW alone has lost 53,000 jobs in the last 13 years! Victoria has been the worst hit with almost 30% of its manufacturing jobs lost – close to 100,000 people!

Making matters worse, while job prospects are diminishing the government has plans to dismantle the welfare state. They want to make it harder to be eligible for welfare payments and lock young people into lower payments for longer.

The truth is that there are just not enough jobs being created. In the last 4 years in Victoria, there have been around 6891 new working-aged people joining the jobs market every month. Far from jobs being available for those people, around 1380 people have been joining the dole queue every month.

Victoria now has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, only slightly better than Tasmania, where 7.1% of the labour force is unable to find work.

Only a system based on profits above all else could facilitate a situation where by we are in desperate need of more schools, hospitals, homes and services yet nothing is being done to address this social need and create much needed jobs.

Currently, in NSW alone, there are more than 58,000 people on the public housing waiting list. Instead of expanding public housing, land is being sold off for private development, where small, unaffordable housing is built.

States are also failing to accommodate growing numbers of students. The number of school aged children in Victoria will grow by 350,000 over the next 20 years. This will require an estimated 550 new schools across the state, however both major parties have a record of closing schools, not opening them.

Meanwhile, only half of the 16,000 trainee teachers who graduated across Australia last year had secured permanent employment four months after graduating. The situation is ludicrous.

The solution to the jobs crisis is clear – we need to invest in the infrastructure we need to create jobs and solve the social and environmental issues we face. The problem is that neither of the major parties are committed to this. Both support the profit system which leaves decisions about jobs and services up to the anarchy of the market.

A workers government would not allow industries like manufacturing to collapse. They would bring companies facing closure into public ownership and retool them to build things like trains, trams, buses and renewable energy technology.

Far from allowing construction to slump a workers government would build public housing, schools, hospitals and childcare centres. This would create skilled jobs and apprenticeships in construction but also provide long term skilled jobs for teachers, nurses, childcare workers and others.

In addition, a workers government would shorten the working week without a loss in pay to help share out available work. This would allow people to get off the dole, thereby saving money currently being spent on welfare payments.

These rational measures are designed to meet people’s needs. They run counter to the insanity of a system that puts profits before all else. Only a democratic socialist society could provide both full employment with decent wages as well as quality public services for all.

The fight for jobs is also a fight for system change.

By Toby Dite


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