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The Jobs and Skills Summit: What it means for SMEs

A critical lack of skilled workers, inflation and wages are some of the key issues affecting SMEs to be addressed at the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, commencing today at Parliament House in Canberra.

Led by the Prime Minister and Treasurer, the two-day Summit brings together Australians, including unions, employers, governments and the wider community to address shared economic challenges.

The Summit will address:

  • Keeping unemployment low, boosting productivity and raising incomes
  • Delivering secure, well‑paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth
  • Expanding employment opportunities for all Australians including the most disadvantaged
  • Addressing skills shortages and getting our skills mix right over the long‑term
  • Improving migration settings to support higher productivity and wages
  • Maximising jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia
  • Ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.

CreditorWatch Chief Economist, Anneke Thompson says, “There is strong hope among all sectors of the economy that some real, immediate actions can be taken to help fill some of the 480,000 jobs that are currently available in Australia. The Summit will be critical for Australia’s future economic outcomes, as the lack of workers is impacting many businesses – particularly small businesses – ability to operate at full capacity.

“Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is at the lowest it has been since 1974, at 3.4 per cent. There are now fewer unemployed people than there are jobs available in Australia,” Ms Thompson continues.

“However, looking beyond the raw unemployment rate, we may be seeing early signs that some heat is coming out of the labour market, as the total number of people employed dropped for the first time since October 2021. The reason the unemployment rate also dropped, was that the participation rate (the proportion of Australians currently in the job market) also declined.” 

“Inflation continues to impact the real wages of Australian employees. Based on ABS Wage Price Index Data, real wages have been in decline since June 2021. The high savings rate has meant many Australians have not felt the impact of this drop immediately, however, the total savings rates of Australians is now also starting to drop. This means that many people are now using their savings pool to meet higher interest repayments and the general higher cost of living.”

Three major employer and business groups today released a joint statement of ambition ahead of the Summit.

“The Summit is an important step in potentially building a more productive, prosperous and fairer Australia,” says Innes Willox, AiGroup Chief Executive. “Agreement at the summit that renewed skilled migration and a wholehearted effort to build our skills base are needed can be key building blocks for our economic well-being. Likewise, there is a lot of common ground in recognising that to build collaboration our workplace relations system needs to be simplified rather than upended.”

However, Mr Willox warns that much detailed work will need to be done after the Summit in the writing of a White Paper to guide the progress of key policy agreements.

Andrew McKellar, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive believes thatThe Jobs and Skills Summit offers a critical opportunity to revitalise productivity, grow pay packets and maintain our strong standards of living, saying, “The realignment of the global economy presents significant challenges to simply maintain, let alone improve on, economic growth and the broader wellbeing needed to secure national prosperity.”

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive says, “The Summit is a chance to find common ground and agree on the key resets needed to position Australia for the future, but we can’t solve every problem overnight so the process that comes after will be crucial. This is an opportunity to move Australia to the frontier by driving stronger economic performance, making ourselves more competitive and productive, and attracting the investment needed to diversify our industrial base, do new things and create new opportunities.”

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READ MORE: Exclusive: Experts outline wishlist for national jobs and skills summit

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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