Whoever forms government post-15 March has the opportunity to get the State back on the front foot and drive our own structural change. As a state and an economy we are at a crossroad, on the cusp of population decline, in need of a vision and long term plan. There is not only an opportunity, but a need, to be proactive to set a plan over the next four years to put the foundations in place to drive that structural change.
I haven't had the pleasure of being 'doorknocked' as yet (never have in the 13 years I have lived in Hobart), so I will use my blog to convey my wish list to all those who may read and listen.
My key areas of interest as a demographer are the workforce, education, population ageing and economic development. While these interests may seem broad in concept, in reality they are intricately linked, to the point of being mutually dependent. Tasmania's future lies in the hands of its population, their educational attainment and the application of their skills and knowledge in the workforce. My wish list therefore comprises an integrated approach to population, education and job creation.
1) A population policy
Has two purposes
- a strategy to attract and retain the population to return to a stable, sustainable population age structure (ie has the ability to replace itself)
- inform policy development with regard to infrastructure investment, planning and service delivery
We need to reduce the propensity for mobility by reducing the need (through employment) and the desire (through liveability) to reside elsewhere.
2) A job creation strategy
Current attitudes to job creation appear to have 'a job is a job' mentality and focus on quantifying full time equivalent (FTE) jobs which is not so important now for a range of reasons (increased labour force participation by women/mothers, older workers etc). Furthermore, job creation efforts don't address productivity issues at all.
In developing a job creation strategy, the new government should consider the types of jobs created, particularly to take advantage of increased investment/achievement in educational attainment. Furthermore, our youth need to be surrounded by jobs they aspire to, and require post 12 year qualifications.
There is little (if any at all) focus on the skill level of jobs created. And in fact, most jobs are 'created' in low skill occupations. Job creation needs to be focussed on higher skill, secure (permanent) employment in industries which provide career longevity, that is they have clear and available career pathways and breadth and depth in employment opportunities.
More specifically, a job creation strategy should be informed by the ABS occupation list (ANZCO) and the respective skill specialisation ratings. I suggest that job creation should be focused on occupations with at least a skill specialisation rating of 3 (1 is the highest out of 5 ratings). At the very least, there should be a target – i.e. 75% of jobs created should be of skill specialisation 3 or greater .Skill specialisation 3 minimum requirement is Certificate IV or III (with two years work experience).
Importantly, increasing the workforce's skill base increases the state's training capacity, that is the ability to provide training for lower skilled people.
3) An education policy
- Expansion of early years education and Child and Family Centres - not just focussing on lower socio-economic and at risk regions
- extending high schools to year 12
- encouraging further education and life-long learning
- greater facilitation from educational attainment to employment
Without creation of meaningful employment opportunities and job security, productivity will continue to languish and Tasmania's population will likely enter decline, threatening prosperity for all.
If we do not create jobs in higher skilled areas and yet continue to invest in increasing educational attainment, we will see a corresponding increase in the numbers of people leaving the state in search of appropriate jobs, leaving the less educated in the state and perpetuating our poor social indicators.
How we do this is a little more complex, but it can be done.