I put out a policy report yesterday, arguing that despite the ACT’s low unemployment rate, we should nonetheless be worried about the number of Canberrans (particularly low-skilled workers) without a job. This is particularly the case for families with children. The Canberra Times ran a page one story and an opinion piece,* which concluded:
The federal governmentâ€™s failure to offer wage subsidies to low-wage workers should not deter the ACT from implementing its own program. Many American states (and the District of Columbia) have their own wage subsidy programs, some worth thousands of dollars per year for low-wage families with children.
With the highest per-capita income of any state or territory in Australia, the ACT government should consider providing wage subsidies for the low-paid. Rather than offering payroll tax breaks to new firms, the Territory should instead focus resources on providing employment to low-skilled workers, whose labour force participation rates have been steadily falling. We should do this for the sake of those workers, who are currently denied the dignity of a full-time job. And we should do it for Canberraâ€™s children, who are more likely to find jobs if they grow up in a household where work is the norm.
* The op-ed was entitled "Time to look beyond the unemployment statisticsâ€. This is the third "Time to…" piece I’ve had published in the past year, following on the heels of â€œTime to rediscover the liberal artsâ€ (AFR) and â€œTime to reclaim this legend as our driving forceâ€ (SMH). Of course, newspaper contributors never pick their headlines, so maybe I and my coauthors just bring out the time to’s in editors.