Free childcare, no penalty rates: Solving our jobs crisis
Free childcare, scrapping penalty rates for small business, rent relief in the bush and training for older Australians are among the solutions for Australia's jobs recovery suggested by a high-level think tank spanning business, unions and government.
News Corp's Jobs360 roundtable panel discussion highlighted how the nation faces an unemployment abyss and needs an effort by everyone to rebuild the workforce.
It starts in the economy's engine room - small business - and will require retraining, extra support for the unemployed, thinking outside the square and supporting local businesses.
"COVID affects us nationally but it's actually a local impact," said Council of Small Business Organisations Australia CEO Peter Strong.
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the government wanted businesses to use the big tax breaks announced in last week's budget and invest now.
"Governments don't create jobs, businesses do; governments put in place frameworks," she said.
"We have supercharged business investment and in particular offering the new tax incentives so businesses can deduct the full cost of eligible assets."
Here are our experts' solutions to regrow jobs.
Watch the full Jobs 360 investigation in our video above.
COSBOA has called for a simpler pay structure in industry awards for businesses that employ fewer than 40 full-time staff, with two single "all hours" rates for either weekdays or weekends that include loadings, allowances and penalty rates.
Mr Strong said the current complicated award system left employers afraid of getting it wrong and deterred them from hiring new staff.
"One award has 26 pages of pay rates," he said.
COSBOA says simpler and more flexible industrial relations processes are essential to give small businesses confidence to employ again.
Families briefly enjoyed free childcare at start of the pandemic, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions says we should have permanently free childcare.
ACTU president Michele O'Neil said reinstating free childcare would help get women back into the workforce and boost the disposable income of households with young children, stimulating consumer spending and "paying for itself".
"Australia has a really low participation of women compared to equivalent countries," she said.
The ACTU says Australia needs a nationwide free TAFE program to support an estimated 150,000 free TAFE spots annually and underpin 10,000 jobs in the system.
"We can build new TAFEs and upgrade existing TAFEs - that's good for construction jobs," Ms O'Neil said.
Training or retraining was a key theme among our Jobs360 experts.
Ms Cash said the Federal Government was investing $1.2 billion to create 100,000 new traineeships and apprenticeships, and employment adviser Amanda Rose said there should be free training courses for older people.
"We need to incentivise employers to hire mature age workers because they have got a work ethic the younger generation don't have, and they want to work," Ms Rose said.
Regional Australia is a key opportunity, with job vacancies there dipping only slightly in the past year while capital city vacancies plunged by one-third.
Ms Rose said there should be government incentives to move away from capitals.
"How about there is free rent for the first 12 months if you stick with that job?" she said.
"Go where the jobs are. Two generations ago, it wasn't even thought about - you went where the jobs are."
Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton said regions wanted skilled workers.
"There's a lot of employment growth in regional places, particularly in the services sector, health and education," he said.
"The perception that people don't want to go to the regions is not the case at all."
Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner, whose business has had to slash its global workforce from 22,000 to 7000 during the pandemic, said low infection rates and government suppression strategies meant domestic borders could be opened now, even to Victoria.
"This really depends on how good our testing regime is and then our contact tracing," he said.
"For the tourism industry in Australia, open borders here are absolutely crucial.
"What we really need is the borders open and some bilateral international arrangements coming back as long as it's safe to do so."
Ms Rose said job seekers should consider trades: "So many small businesses cannot get a carpenter, they cannot get a plumber - there are 800 jobs out there on Seek for carpenters".
New government incentives for hiring trainees and apprentices created a "massive opportunity", she said. "If you're not in trades, maybe go and get an apprenticeship."
Demographer Bernard Salt said the future for jobs would require adaptability.
"You need to adapt your business or adapt your skill-set in order to learn the skills or technology to survive in the market," he said.
There were lots of jobs available in technology, agribusiness and healthcare, Mr Salt said.
Originally published as Free childcare, no penalty rates: Solving Australia's jobs crisis