Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We need more off welfare into work: Hockey

MORE than two million working-age Australians receive welfare payments and do not work despite a national skills shortage, the Federal Government says.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey announced the figure today and said the Federal Government was committed to getting more Australians into work.

"We are not having enough children despite the baby bonus and we are running out of workers," Mr Hockey said.

"We can massively increase immigration, which Australians would not accept, or get people back to work.

"Through welfare to work laws, when a parent's youngest child reaches 15 they must go back to work, which has got 237,000 Australians into employment and helps keep the economy strong.

"We have not seen one Labor policy on this."

Labor workforce participation spokeswoman Penny Wong denied this and said the Government's mutual obligation policies were punitive and did not help people become more employable.

Ms Wong cited a 2007 Australian Council of Social Service study showing 60 per cent of single parents receiving welfare only had Year 10 school qualifications or less.

"The Howard Government's recent changes actually make it harder for people to get the training and education they need to get a job," she said.

"Under Labor, single parents and people with a disability who have part-time participation requirements would be able to fulfil those requirements through education or real training that leads to a job."

Mr Hockey earlier told a Human Resources Week business luncheon that a strong economy guaranteed protection of workers' rights more than laws.

"No laws can inoculate you against economic downturn but a strong economy can," Mr Hockey said.

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