CCIQ says much can be done to address youth unemployment issues
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) says comments from the State Minister for Employment Grace Grace claiming that little can be done to change Queensland’s youth unemployment crisis are deeply concerning.
CCIQ Director of Advocacy Nick Behrens said CCIQ had repeatedly highlighted the growing concern of youth unemployment and identified ways in which the State Government could address the problem.
“The State Government must focus on three key areas to achieve the necessary reductions in the worrying trend of youth unemployment levels, particularly in regional Queensland,” he said.
Mr Behrens said the State Government must invest in infrastructure to create the right kind of economic activity to stimulate job growth, with the added benefit of construction jobs giving opportunities to young apprentices.
“The business community is concerned that the government is relegating proper infrastructure planning and showing signs of a cautious development approach at the same time,” he said.
“This generates uncertainty in the market and reduces business confidence, making it harder to attract investment and create jobs.
“The first step in tackling youth unemployment is a strong investment pipeline in infrastructure.”
Employer incentive payments
Mr Behrens said in tackling youth unemployment in the regions, the State Government should be encouraging employers to take on apprentices and train the workers of the future.
“Business capacity to invest in apprentices is particularly vulnerable to economic cycles,” he said.
“Maintaining and building a skilled workforce requires government commitment to ensure that Queensland businesses are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities of our future economy.
“CCIQ highlights the role of employer incentives have played during periods of soft economic conditions. Direct subsidies and tax concessions to employers who take on an apprentice and trainee must be front of mind as both the State and Federal Budgets are framed.
“It is also important to increase incentive payments for employers to take on apprentices and trainees.”
Reform the Fair Work framework
Mr Behrens said the State Government must recognise the stark correlation between the rigidities in the current workplace relations system and the alarming youth unemployment figures.
“At present, Queensland figures put youth unemployment at 12.1 per cent, sitting at more than double the rate of adults (5.8 per cent).
“Youth unemployment is particularly high in regional and rural parts of Queensland.
“In recent ABS statistics, Cairns and Townsville recorded 21 per cent and 20 per cent – more than double the adult rates respectively.”
Mr Behrens said that since the introduction of the Fair Work laws, the rate of inactive young people in the labour market had reached historical highs.
“Workplace reforms, such as increased minimum work engagement periods and ongoing increases in junior rates of pay, act as examples of award rate disincentives, discouraging businesses from taking on young workers,” he said.
“Penalty rates and onerous unfair dismissal laws are making employers cautious of taking on new employees or opening longer hours.
“This worrying trend demonstrates the need for a serious national conversation about how to make it easier for businesses to employ, devoid of political ideology and based on fact.
“The final step in tackling youth unemployment is to work with the Federal Government to make sensible changes to the Fair Work Act, to make it easier for employers to invest, grow, and employ.”