Advocates call for new approaches as unemployment rate remains at 3.9%

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Australia’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.9% for the but advocates are calling on the government to accelerate approaches to boost employability rates for Australians with disabilities.
Disability services and support organization Onemda told SBS News that only 54% of the 4.5 million Australians living with a disability are involved in the labor force.
According to Onemda, among the population of working age, people living with a disability are twice as likely to be unemployed as a person without a disability.
“There is a widespread misunderstanding associated with being a person living with a disability and a lack of recognition of the value it can bring to the workforce,” said Onemda CEO Simon Lewis .
“Now is the time to reflect on what more needs to be done to increase the participation of people with disabilities in employment, rather than being limited to the record unemployment figures published today.”

“The gap is widening and the system is currently failing Australians with disabilities.”

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Neha Prakash, acting CEO of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA), called for better job opportunities and working conditions for people with disabilities, especially those with poor English skills and from ethnic backgrounds. Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD).
“Persons with disabilities from immigrant and refugee backgrounds face significant intersectional barriers to entering and participating in the workforce,” she said.
“They are repeatedly underrepresented in labor force participation rates, but overrepresented in unemployment figures compared to other disabled and non-disabled people.”

NEDA also calls for federally funded employment services incorporating specialist services and inclusion experts, as well as a plan for transitioning out of segregated employment settings.

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The total number of people employed in Australia increased by 60,600 workers and monthly hours worked increased by 17 million hours or 0.9%.
Full-time employment increased by 69,400, while the number of part-time workers fell by 8,700.
Although the figures are a positive sign for the overall economy, Maureen Fordyce of Queensland-based disability advocacy group AMPARO said not all Australians have the same job opportunities.
“AMPARO’s experience is that Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Queenslanders with disabilities and their families face significant additional barriers that prevent them from having equitable access to important services and information, understanding their rights, to exercise choice and control, and to solve their problems,” Ms Fordyce said.
“People with disabilities from CALD backgrounds may experience discrimination in many areas of life, including higher rates of unemployment.

“They often encounter attitudinal and structural barriers that limit their participation in the labor market. Physical access to workplaces unfortunately remains a common barrier to open employment. We need systemic structural changes, education and training. ‘Improving the performance of employment agencies for people with disabilities.’

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Economist Matt Grudnoff of the Australia Institute said while the unemployment rate is low, Australia’s economy is still not immune to the effects of the pandemic.
“Looking at how the 15-and-over population changes from month to month is interesting,” Mr. Grudnoff said.
“It is now increasing faster than during pandemic levels, but has not returned to the level it was before the pandemic.
“That means the population is still well below what it would have been without the pandemic.”

The graph below from the Australia Institute shows the month-to-month change in the population aged 15 and over.

Economy graph

Source: Australian Institute

During the previous reference period, published in May, the unemployment rate also remained at 3.9% in April and the number of employed people increased by 4,500 people to reach 13.4 million.

The unemployment rate was already the lowest in almost 50 years.
But economists have warned against interpreting unemployment rates as telling the whole story of the conditions of Australian workers.
The latest Wage Price Index figures, released in May, were described as ““for workers.

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Data released by the ABS showed wages rose 0.7% in the March quarter and 2.4% on the year, but failed to keep pace with throughout the year.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was the leader of the opposition at the time, accused the Morrison government of economic mismanagement.
“Most are the inevitable end result of a decade of cuts, mismanagement, neglect and a government that only focuses on itself,” Mr Albanese said in May.

“Under Scott Morrison, real wages are falling while the cost of living is soaring.”

Unemployment decreases as minimum wage increases

After the release of previous unemployment rate figures this year, Mr Albanese called for an increase in the minimum wage.
On Wednesday, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the lowest-paid workers in the country would receive a raise equivalent to $40 a week for full-time workers starting July 1.
Mr Albanese said the 5.2% pay rise was the right move. “When you take into account the economic impact of this decision, it’s the right one,” Albanese told ABC radio on Thursday.

“[The commission] effectively agreed with the government’s submission, that the lowest paid workers – who were only getting $20.33 an hour (and) will now have that increase of only $1.05 an hour – didn’t deserve a real pay cut.”

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The minimum wage hike will take effect in July except for workers in the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors, who will have to wait until October.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the decision was welcomed by the 2.6million workers affected, or 25% of the Australian workforce.
“We believe this is going to make a significant difference to the pressures that low-wage workers face with the rising cost of living,” Ms McManus said.
“The labor movement fought so hard for this increase despite some pretty strong crosswinds. We also had to oppose what employers were advocating, namely very deep cuts in real wages at a time when their profits are up 20% and so is productivity, as unemployment is low.
“This decision is reasonable and fair.”
Not everyone hailed the rise in wages, with Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox saying it will fuel inflation.

“This wage increase will put a lot of pressure on businesses as they are already under pressure with energy cost increases, interest rate hikes and worries about their own inflation,” Mr Willox told ABC TV.

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