AFR Workforce and Productivity Summit: Robots threaten jobs
Business leaders are calling for simpler, consistent rules for employing young people - and a new "simple" award for small business employees - as part of a national response to the worsening youth unemployment problem. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell described the current regulation of young workers - with differing laws across different states overlaid by 122 federal awards and a federal Fair Work Act with 950 sectionsccwas "an incredibly messy space and there's no doubt that's discouraging businesses from employing young people". She argued that the burden of workplace regulation was particularly dire for small to medium enterprises that lacked HR departments and revealed ACCI is lobbying the federal government to introduce a new simpler award for employees of businesses with less than 20 staff, which would make it easier for these businesses to both hire and fire staff. She declined to say what other terms and conditions would be covered, or excluded, but argued "we need to think outside the square". Currently some 280,000 Australians under 25 are unemployed and there are 2 million small businesses - so the problem of youth unemployment could disappear if small businesses took on more workers, Ms Carnell argued.
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Erin Watson Lynn, Cathy Doyle, Darren Fewster and Andrew Charlton discuss the future of jobs for young people at The Australian Financial Review's Workforce and Productivity Summit.
Cathy Doyle, McDonald's Australia vice president and chief people officer told The Australian Financial Review that as a national employer McDonalds had to grapple with varying state laws when it came to hours that young people were permitted to work, occupational health and safety and traineeships, as well as complying with federal workplace laws and awards. "It builds a complexity in a national organisation...consistency around those things would really help," she said. Similarly, Darren Fewster, Telstra's executive director of HR shared services said "the biggest thing for us [when it comes to workplace law reform] is consistency and simplicity". Ms Doyle also suggested that leadership changes had hampered federal government policy reform when it came to tackling youth unemployment. "I've worked with three prime ministers [in recent times]... the government needs a bit of stability and a bit of focus on it," she said. Both Ms Doyle and Mr Fewster were on a panel at The Australian Financial Review's Workforce and Productivity Summit in Melbourne on Tuesday, discussing youth employment and the future of jobs for young people. Fellow speaker Andrew Charlton, director of AlphaBeta Economics, said job prospects for young people were already diminishing, and the rise of robots would make things even harder to get entry-level positions. "Nearly 3/4 of the jobs that young people tend to take are at risk of automation," Dr Charlton said. "Our labour market is changing very rapidly, the demand for skills has changed and the supply hasn't kept up," he said. Youth unemployment was already at 12 per cent - twice the rate of the rest of the Australian population - and nearly 1 in four young Australians were either unemployed or under-employed, Dr Charlton said. This was costing the Australian economy $13 billion in lost GDP. Mr Fewster argued that more Australian students needed to be educated about the benefits of studying science, technology, engineering or maths at university, given that currently only 19 per cent of Australian students were studying STEM subjects. "Plenty of students do well in science and maths at school but don't go on: are we telling them about the job opportunities?" he said"'1.