Education the key to employment

A SKILLED workforce is what separates Australia from the US according to Opposition Leader Kim Beazley.

While many argue it is the more flexible workforce environment in the US which has generated the employment growth, this is not correct, Mr Beazley said at the recent launch of the Morgan & Banks Job Index Survey.

“Their higher level of workforce skills has meant American workers have been able to seize the opportunities presented by the new economy – particularly in the so-called ‘convergence’ industries – and reduce their unemployment to levels we would never have dreamed of in the recent past,” he said.

Mr Beazley said this helped explain why Australia’s unemployment rate hovered around 7 per cent while the US – enjoying the same economic prosperity – had an unemployment rate of about 4 per cent.

“What this tells you is the traditional conservative solution to unemployment is hopelessly out of date,” he said.

“It is out of date because the real blockage to lowering unemployment is a large section of the labour force unable to embrace the new opportunities being created by the new economy.”

Mr Beazley said a number of statistics supported the notion of an unskilled workforce relative to the US.

The percentage of the Austra-lian workforce with post-school qualifications is 28 per cent compared to 37 per cent in the US.

Secondly, the percentage of the Australian workforce with a university-level qualification is 17 per cent compared to 28 per cent in the US.

The lack of education has manifested itself through a high level of structural unemployment in Australia as people were unable to cope with the change brought about by globalisation, he said.

“Make no mistake about it – what we are seeing now in Australian politics is a struggle between the new economic reform agenda and the old one it must replace if we are to prosper as a nation,” Mr Beazley said.

“We can recognise this and adjust accordingly or we can suffer another period of drift for which all Australians will pay.

“I am arguing for change now. Everywhere, we see the know-ledge nation in retreat.

“The lack of skills in our workforce will become a powerful barrier against higher growth.

“Yet what the Howard Government has done is slash education, training, labour market programs and all the other supports of a knowledge nation,” he said.

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