Jobs & Skills Summit 2022 – reform agenda for Australia’s labour market

Amanda Lyras, Stephen Silvapulle, Emily Broadbent, Sophie Orton, Isabella Armao and Anand Shah
01 Sep 2022
Time to read: 2.5 minutes

Productivity, upskilling and increased engagement are key targets for the Australian Government’s Jobs & Skills Summit 2022, to future-proof the labour market.

Today the Prime Minister and Treasurer will officially open the Australian Government’s Jobs & Skills Summit 2022, championing a spirit of collaboration for a national conversation to address economic challenges within Australia’s labour market.

143 invitees have been selected for the Summit, including senior business and industry representatives, trade union officials and state and territory political leaders who will join federal politicians for a two-day intensive discussion in what we are promised will deliver immediate and long-term solutions to ultimately increase the living standards of Australians.

What is clear is that this is only the beginning of a much longer reform agenda for Australia’s labour market.

Jobs & Skills Summit 2022 – White Paper

The Federal Treasury has identified five broad themes for the Summit:

  • maintaining full employment and growing productivity;
  • boosting job security and wages;
  • lifting participation and reducing barriers to employment;
  • delivering a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration; and
  • maximising opportunities in the industries of the future.”

A key focus of the Summit will be on women’s experiences, and ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay in the Australian labour market.

An Issues Paper has been produced to outline these key themes and focus, as a guide to the conversations we can expect to emerge over the coming days.

Following the Summit, we are promised a White Paper on Employment that will provide a comprehensive blueprint for the future labour market in Australia.

There has already been plenty of discussions by key stakeholders who are all wanting to best position themselves for influence over the shape of what is to come.

ACTU & COSBOA Joint statement

In an unexpected pairing, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) released a joint statement on Monday, outlining their collective views on updating workplace relations for small businesses in Australia.

The joint statement lists the ACTU and COSBOA’s shared support for a simpler system for small businesses, including:

  • the ability for small business to “be able to correctly embrace the workplace relations requirements”, including access to the benefits of bargaining;
  • a simpler “Better off Overall Test” (BOOT);
  • new options for flexibility in the workplace; and
  • new options around collective bargaining which include multi-employer agreements.

Separately both organisations have refined their messages further.

The ACTU, strongly represented at the Summit with 35 trade union officials invited, has run a public campaign to argue for the voices of workers to be heard. In a series of publicly-released reports, the ACTU has emphasised tangible outcomes that promote “an economy that works for all people’ and targeting macroeconomic policies that allow people to meet their full potential including full employment in secure and well-paid jobs.

The COSBOA have also released its submissions for the Summit, seeking immediate reforms to address the current work shortages across industries, prioritising consultation with industry associations, and simplifying the bureaucratic processes to support and assist small business owners.

ACCI, AI Group & BCA Joint statement of ambition

Industry groups have also sought to have a voice walking into the Summit.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) have released a "joint statement of ambition" which outlines their support for the Summit and expected White Paper. The joint statement heralds a revisionist approach to the labour market which focuses on building support for strong employment growth, higher incomes, and improved productivity to enhance Australia’s social inclusion.

The industry groups have highlighted necessary improvements, including:

  • workplace relations arrangements that target growth of incomes and flexibility of opportunities for employees, employers and those who are self-employed;
  • improvements in workforce participation and inclusion;
  • efficient investment in workforce skills and training;
  • synchronising the resources of the private sector with skills, infrastructure, and efficient regulation by the public sector; and
  • future-proofing Australia including decarbonisation, the ageing of the population, digitalisation and improvements to healthcare services.

The ACCI, Ai Group and BCA have supported continuing post-summit talks rather than union-employer deals, linking the collaborative approach as being crucial to achieving the ambitions of the Summit.

Key takeaway: more to come in the reform process

The Jobs Summit will run across 1-2 September 2022, with the release of the White Paper to follow.

We will continue to provide you with updates of developments in the discussions at the Summit.

With more information to come both during and after the Summit, there will no doubt be a lengthy reform process to follow. We will watch for the next stages of the process, identifying how you can maximise the opportunities and navigate the emerging challenges too.

Stay tuned.

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