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Laying the foundations for an economy that works for people: the Jobs Summit challenge

  • 29 August 2022
The  Jobs and Skills Summit is an important first step in a long-term process of reconfiguration of work and economic activity in a world that has radically changed since many of the settings were put in place. Treasury’s Issues Paper, indicates that the Summit will cover five broad themes: Maintaining full employment and growing productivity; Boosting job security and wages; Lifting participation and reducing barriers to employment; Delivering a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration and Maximising opportunities in the industries of the future.

The paper also notes that throughout the Summit, ‘there will be a strong overarching focus on women’s experiences of the labour market and ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.’

Treasury will also invite submissions and engage the wider community over the next 12 months.

While the Summit does not signal the end of neoliberalism, with its crushing of spirits and destruction of lives, it does signal a political willingness by the Albanese government to begin an inclusive, deliberative process for healing our society of some of the wounds that have been inflicted on ordinary people through the almost unfettered accumulation of superprofits on the one hand and cuts to real wages and the dismantling of social infrastructure on the other.

'We need to bite the bullet and introduce, where appropriate, multi-employer bargaining in the light of the fragmentation of the labour market, especially in the burgeoning services sector.'

At a time when workers are currently experiencing the biggest fall in real wages and the lowest share of the national income on record, it is the dizziest height of entitlement to claim that it is wages, rather than profits, that need to be restrained in order to rein in inflation!

So what are some of the concrete steps we can take to begin to undo the damage wrought by governments that have been in the thrall of the neoliberal lie that the wealth would eventually trickle down?

First, we need to rethink the purpose of economic activity. We have grown used to the fetishisation of ‘the economy’ as a kind of deity before which working people are required to sacrifice their lives. Especially as we look down the barrel of a climate emergency that threatens not only jobs but life itself, it is well beyond time for us to reimagine our relationship with the environment and with each other. Building an economy that works for people would be a