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Jobs for NSW Bill 2015

(Debate, 8 September 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I speak in support of the Jobs for NSW Bill 2015, and support the aim of focusing New South Wales Government attention on increasing jobs and job-related investment. I have circulated amendments that would require at least three members of the Jobs for NSW board to be female and at least one member to have expert knowledge of digital innovation and entrepreneurship. Following my meeting with the Minister's office this morning I understand that the Government agrees with the intention of these amendments, and will ensure that there will be equitable female participation on Jobs for NSW and that there will be members with expert knowledge of the start-up sector. I look forward to the Minister confirming this in his reply.

Jobs for NSW is tasked with identifying opportunities for developing the New South Wales economy, attracting new businesses to New South Wales, advising on barriers and opportunities to economic growth, and strategy for effective targeted support for economic development, including recommendations for incentives for job creation. The bill would establish a Jobs for NSW board of seven members, four appointed by the Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, and one by the Minister for Regional Development. The secretaries of the departments of Industry, Skills and Regional Development and of Premier and Cabinet or their nominees are the other members. I commend the Government for action in this area.

When introducing this bill, the Minister said that the Government has set a target of creating 150,000 jobs within four years and is focused on incentives for commercial innovation and entrepreneurship. He referred to the new technologies and business models bringing about fundamental change in supply chains, industry structures and the nature of work. I am pleased to see the Minister welcoming disruption in order to grow the economy, moving towards new and emerging growth opportunities, not the old models of industry assistance. This approach is most welcome and much needed. Indeed, I raised the need for this new approach in February 2013 in this place, calling on the Government to support start-ups and digital enterprises with practical help, and removal of barriers to development and growth. We need an approach that addresses automation, globalisation and collaboration where there will be multiple employers and new jobs.

The June Committee for Economic Development of Australia [CEDA] report "Australia's future workforce?" predicts the potential disappearance of more than five million Australian jobs over the next 10 to 15 years as a result of technological advancements. Put another way, it estimates that 40 per cent of existing Australian jobs may disappear over this time. CEDA's report concludes that Australia needs to build on those areas of the economy operating at the technological frontier to create wealth and jobs in the future, along with concerted effort to reskill workers from old industries. We need jobs for the future, what the CEDA report identifies as the Infotronics Age because of its base on information, electronics and the internet. The report indicates that computers, machine-learning algorithms and robotics will replace jobs in higher skilled sectors that have not been automated previously, with key shortages in digital skills.

The Foundation for Young Australians report "The New Work Order" reports that 30 per cent of young people are currently unemployed or underemployed, and that 70 per cent of young Australians are getting their first job in roles that will either look very different or be completely lost in the next 10 to 15 years due to automation. Nearly 60 per cent of Australian students and 70 per cent in vocational education and training are studying or training for occupations in which at least two-thirds of jobs will be automated. More than 50 per cent of jobs will require significant digital skills, but young people are not yet learning them in schools. The report says that future employees need to be digitally literate, financially savvy, innovative and adaptable, with enterprising skills in communication, project management, financial literacy and digital literacy, plus have the ability to critically assess and analyse information, be creative and innovate.

Bernard Salt's just-released report "Super connected jobs" for NBN shows that future jobs will be fundamentally different from those of the past. He says we need to develop a culture of entrepreneurialism built on connectivity, with five new types of jobs: personalised care givers, highly skilled technocrats, specialist professionals, skilled workers, and creatives. How will the Government ensure that the expert Jobs for the Future board of seven members contains members of the technology and start-up industries, people with the knowledge and experience to create these future jobs? To modernise and incentivise economic development and support commercial innovation and entrepreneurship, there must be strong representation of these industries on the Jobs for NSW board. We need new ideas from people with direct expertise about the new job-creating industries and workplaces.

I am also very concerned that the bill does not include mention of ensuring female representation on Jobs for NSW or anyone with expertise in increasing jobs for women. Women returning to the workforce after caring roles with children and other family members are often a highly skilled and educated group, and we should be harnessing their capacity to create jobs into the future. The Australian Government's Department of Social Services Report "Women, Work and the Global Economic Downturn" highlights gendered economic impacts, largely due to the difference in the male and female workforce, with female underemployment at 10 per cent compared with 5.6 per cent for males, and underutilisation 15.2 per cent for women but 10.8 per cent for men.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency data shows that the women's labour force participation rate is 58.9 per cent compared with 71.8 per cent for men. But this underestimates the gender gap, as this assessment does not incorporate the massive part-time female employment, so the real gender gap is more like 40 per cent. The Diversity Council's research paper "Older Women Matter" shows participation rates for Australian women aged 55 to 64 years of 55 per cent, compared with 70 per cent in New Zealand, and estimates that Australia's gross domestic product in 2012 would have been 4 per cent higher if we had the same participation of people over 55. Access Economics modelling shows that increasing women's workplace participation could lift national output by $98.4 billion over 30 years.

This is a significant social and economic loss, and increasing the job participation rate for women is therefore vital. To ensure that Jobs for NSW does not further entrench this gender gap, I believe there should be strong representation of women on Jobs for NSW. Ensuring new technology experts and women are on the Jobs for NSW board is not to detract from the considerable expertise of the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Simon Smith, and the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Blair Comley. However, it is important to address the challenges of the future and create jobs in the challenging new economy.


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