November 17th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Widespread support for Development Bank

Editorial: Election 2001 - The issues which must be addressed

TESTIMONIAL: News Weekly: more than a magazine

BIOETHICS: Church leaders reject all human cloning

DEFENCE: Navy League endorses Coastwatch, rejects coast guard

Straws in the Wind: The great wombat race / Inch by inch / Escobar lives!

ECONOMICS: Development Bank - a boost for regional enterprise

COMMENT: Exposing the anti-American Left

Letter: Development Bank

Letter: Pakistan next?

Letter: Knowledge nation

Letter: What jobs?

Afghanistan: War on terror - the scorecard so far

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Baby bonus signals sea-change in family policy

HEALTH: Are too many Australian children over-medicated?

EUTHANASIA: Belgium threatens to go down the Dutch road

ECONOMY: Where competition policy fails

LITERATURE: Nobel winner celebrates life and civilisation

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Letter: What jobs?

by Marcus L'Estrange

News Weekly, November 17, 2001


The two million Australians searching for work must be wondering when it is their turn to rate a mention in the election campaign. Their anxiety is exacerbated by the fact that not a single extra permanent full-time job was created during the 1990s.

Why do I say that there are two million unemployed? Basically because the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr Trewin, says so, in his annual or real unemployment survey Persons not in the Labour Force.

The official monthly unemployment ABS figures (Labour Force Australia) exclude all those (nearly 1.2 million) who do not meet the absurd "push polling" type definitions of unemployment forced upon the ABS by Labor and Liberal politicians alike.

Let's look at how the more than two million unemployed are made up:

"Official unemployed": 600,000-800,000. Then the following Australians are excluded from the monthly figures:

  • 57,000: actively looking for work but not available to start work in the survey week.
  • 106,500: discouraged or 'given up' workers.
  • 173,000: who wanted to work but lacked childcare.
  • 94,000: short-term (less than one month) health problems.
  • 144,000: on short-term courses.
  • 40,000: thought they had a job to go to.
  • 62,000: other family reasons.
  • 133,000: other, or similar, reasons.

Total: 809,000.

To the above we can add 335,000 who are unemployed but cannot start work until the second month after the survey.

Finally, on this point we can add at least 179,000 who work between 1-10 hours who are counted as being employed. Additionally there are another 421,000 people working between 11-34 hours, who are counted as being employed but want to work more hours.

Total: two million plus unemployed (rounded figures).

As economist Terry McCrann observed: "So that, for want of a better term, the 'jobless problem' actually directly hits a staggering 2.5 million Australians (official jobless - 800,000 hidden unemployment 1.2 million, 500,000 underemployed) - leading on to claims that the official jobless numbers are some sort of gigantic cover-up" (The Australian, July 6, 1996).

I recall John Howard, then Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, saying to me in 1993: "I know the real unemployment figure is 20 per cent but I cannot afford to be honest. If I was honest people would become depressed and spend less, thus creating even more unemployment."

I also recall trying to explain to Kim Beazley what was wrong with the monthly unemployment figures, but his eyes just glazed over.

If you are dishonest about the magnitude of the problem, you cannot be honest about the solution. Labor's Working Nation Mark II, and the Coalition's slave labour Working for the Dole are both Mickey Mouse solutions.

Fudged figures are no basis for sound employment, education, migration and economic policy.

Marcus L'Estrange,
St Kilda, Vic

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