Number of working Australians falling – new report

Number of working Australians falling – new report

A new major study has outlined how changes to Australia’s population size and age profile may impact on economic growth, workforce and public finances over the next 40 years.

The Federal Government’s Intergenerational Report released this week shows the urgent need to reform the early learning system and make it more accessible and affordable is vital for removing barriers to having children and supporting the nation’s future community wellbeing and economy.

In 1981-82, there were 6.6 people of working age (aged 15 to 65) for everyone over 65 in Australia, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. However, there are now just 4 people of working age (aged 15 to 65) for everyone aged over 65, and this will drop to 2.7 people to 1 by 2060-61.

“The need for early learning system reform and rising childcare costs should not be an obstacle in intensely personal decisions around whether to have children or take on paid work,” Thrive by Five CEO, Jay Weatherill, said.

“If people can’t access affordable, high quality early learning then they may be blocked from workplace participation and be faced with really hard decisions about the size of their family.

“There are many considerations when families and individuals make choices about bringing children into the world, fears about the early learning system letting them down should not be one of them”.

Weatherill said an early learning system that does not completely support people to care for their children and stands in the way of people having children is not in the national interest.

“The early learning system is not just failing families and children, it is hampering the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19 now and fuelling the impact of an ageing population in the future,” he said.

The Front Project & PwC have found that for every $1 invested in early learning and care, Australia receives $2 back over the child’s life.

“Don’t kick this down the road, all governments should bring new and innovative ideas about reform of Australia’s early learning and childcare system to the table at next week’s National Cabinet meeting”.

The ‘OECD Skills Outlook 2021: Learning for Life’ report, released in June, called for greater investment in lifelong learning programs that involve all key stakeholders and focus on vulnerable groups, particularly young people, the NEET (neither in employment, education or training) and those whose jobs are most at risk of transformation.

“Australia also has one of the highest internship rates of 15 year-olds at 49% of the general population [while the OECD average remains at 34%], allowing students to explore various career paths before the transition from compulsory schooling to the workforce,” OECD Head of Skills Analysis, Fancesca Borgonovi, told The Educator.

Borgonovi said OECD data shows that Australia has been successful in enacting innovative adult learning systems and assisting older job seekers in finding employment and learning opportunities, and has various initiatives that work on increasing innovation and productivity in the workplace.

“For example, Australia’s Career Transition Assistance programme initiated in mid-2018 has been vital for older job seekers in gaining basic digital skills that can help them feel more engaged and become more resilient workers during periods of crises,” she said.

“This has contributed to adult disengagement rates which are below the OECD average”.

Programs that encourage high-performance work practices are also widespread in Australia, Borgonovi pointed out.

“One example is the Partners at Work Grants Programme, which provides competitive grants to support workplace changes that benefit all stakeholders,” she said.

“The flexibility and autonomy of high-performance work practices brings more opportunities for informal and formal learning and allow workers to use their skills more effectively, thus providing higher wage returns in the labour market”.

However, Borgonovi said there is always more that can be done to reduce inequalities and ensuring that disadvantaged youth and adults are targeted in ways that recognise unique barriers to opportunities and make learning accessible and affordable for all.

“What this report makes clear is that depending on the metric different countries do better or worse but also that through policy dialogue and the exchange of good practices policy making can become more effective,” she said.

“The pandemic has shown the clear value of public policies in promoting people’s wellbeing”.