Australia’s govt needs a ‘comprehensive plan’ to create more jobs: Shadow treasurer

Hundreds of people queue outside an Australian government welfare centre, Centrelink, in Melbourne on March 23, 2020. William West | AFP via Getty Images. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

CANBERRA, Jul 24, 2020, CNBC. Australia’s government needs to come forward with a comprehensive plan for future job creation as the country tackles the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said Friday, CNBC reported.

The government has announced fiscal stimulus worth 289 billion Australian dollars ($206.54 billion) ⁠— around 14.6% of Australia’s GDP ⁠— to support workers, households and businesses affected by the virus outbreak. Australia expects its budget deficit to widen significantly and the economy is predicted to shrink by 3.75% this year.

Job losses are a major concern as the pandemic ended the Australian economy’s nearly three-decade growth streak — one of the longest seen in any country around the world.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in his July Economic and Fiscal Update said the unemployment rate is predicted to peak at around 9.25% in the three months that will end in December. Though the labor market is expected to strengthen beyond 2020 due to a pickup in demand, the unemployment rate will take time to decline, according to the update.

“What that shows is something like an extra 240,000 Australians are expected to lose their job between now and Christmas, to add to the million already without work,” Chalmers said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.” He added that this week’s budget update “should have had a plan” on how the government would create jobs once the temporary support measures trail away from the economy.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the unemployment rate in June was at 7.4%, with as many as 992,300 people out of work.

As part of its economic response to Covid-19, Australia’s government introduced temporary subsidy and supplementary measures to help businesses in keeping more people employed and provide additional support to individuals that have lost their jobs. Support for both measures was extended this week.

Chalmers, a member of the Australian Labor Party, explained that while those measures have helped businesses and workers, Australia needs a comprehensive plan for new job creation for the future — one that would focus on where the new jobs are going to come from.

“We could invest in public housing, which is labor intensive. A lot of jobs associated. Build something with lasting benefit for our most vulnerable people. That’s one idea we should’ve heard more about this week,” he said.

Another option would be to sort out Australia’s energy policy so that companies get cleaner and cheaper energy to bring down business costs, invest with confidence and hire more people, according to Chalmers.

“This recession will be longer than it needs to be, the unemployment queues will be longer than they need to be if the government doesn’t come forward with a genuine, comprehensive plan for jobs into the future,” he added.

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