ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: ACT labour market trends help explain rates of poverty in the ACT

14 October 2014

Joint media release with Women's Centre for Health Matters.

The ACT Council of Social Service and Women's Centre for Health Matters released data today showing that outside of public sector employment, industries with growing employment opportunities that do not require degree-level qualifications offer low wage, relatively high rates of part-time work, suggesting many workers struggle to earn enough to cover their costs of living.

Commenting on release of the report, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service said, "Our community knows that a full-time job is the best way to ensure protection from poverty. But in some industries, notably those where women are significantly over-represented, workers have comparatively low (full-time) wages and part-time employment is high."

"With high costs of living in the ACT for many people working in the growth industries of professional, scientific and technical services, and the health care and social assistance industry struggle with low and insecure income, working less hours than they need to earn an adequate income to cover the costs of living in Canberra."

"This data helps to explain why, in a city with relatively low unemployment rates, 9.1 per cent of people living in Canberra are living in poverty – defined as income of less than $400/week for a single person and less than $841/week for a family with two children."

"ACTCOSS is calling on the ACT and Federal Governments to:

  • Support the maintenance of penalty rates in low wage industries;
  • Develop public policy that promotes living wages and decent working conditions that make jobs in growth industries viable as long-term careers;
  • Prioritise investment in industries outside of the public sector with anticipated employment growth;
  • Generate a social dividend from government investment in industries by positively weighting tenderers that can demonstrate they have a track record and future intention of employing women; people with disability; older job seekers; people who have been long term unemployed, school leavers/new graduates and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Prioritise investment in supporting disadvantaged groups including women, single parents, people who have been long term unemployed, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, people living with disabilities, young people and older job seekers to be able to access the education system to obtain the qualifications that they need to compete for jobs in industries with higher wages and decent working conditions;
  • Increase number of wage subsidies for employers who employ someone who has been unemployed for more than 12 months in a job for two years;
  • Continue funding the Youth Connections Program;
  • Support adequate income when out of work by increasing Newstart and other Allowances by $50 and increasing indexation of payments."

Ms Helyar concluded, "Implementing these measures will help to ensure the ACT labour market offers work opportunities and adequate incomes to all residents of Canberra, not only people with tertiary level qualifications. And when people are out of work, or looking for work, they have adequate income support, access to training and education and employers have real incentives to give them a go."

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, on 0448 791 987.