Hard-pressed Australians working on construction sites, in retail and in hospitality are finding themselves at a disadvantage, according to a report from the Institute of Public Affairs.
The report, Hard Working Australians, highlights the plight of Australian workers who face a series of challenges to get a job, and what can be done to help them.
Its titled “Hard Working Australians – A call to action”.
The report says the challenges faced by hard-working Australian workers have been exacerbated by the Government’s reforms to the WorkChoices scheme, which allows employers to apply for jobs that they can fill by applying for a skilled work permit.
The scheme allows businesses to pick up the slack if they can prove that they need to hire a particular number of people for specific tasks, and that their skills have been developed in a certain industry or in a particular location.
But the report says that’s not always the case.
In some cases, the requirements are so stringent that many workers cannot even get a work permit at all, and have been unable to secure work.
“When the government introduced the Work Choices scheme in 2016, employers were required to apply to the government for a work permits to enable them to hire people for their construction projects,” the report reads.
“However, a further 12 per cent of the workers applying for work permits were not able to secure a work visa at all.”
Hardworking Australians have been left with no choice but to resort to a work-fare scheme that does little to help the hard-hit workers who are in the same situation.
“The report found that the average Australian worker had an annual income of $72,000 in 2018, while the median annual income for construction workers was $47,000.
The researchers say the Government needs to rethink the scheme and increase the number of work permits that can be granted to help Australian workers.”
It is clear that the Government has not provided the resources to ensure that those with the skills and experience to do the job will be able to do it,” the authors write.”
A further challenge is the Government-funded scheme for workers in construction, where workers are often unable to work and have no choice about where they are working.
“This is a serious problem and a lack of leadership from the Government.”
The authors also warn that the scheme is not working as intended.
The WorkChoice scheme provides for employers to use the Work Permit Scheme for skilled workers, which requires them to have at least two years of experience in the construction industry.
But the scheme has been criticised for creating an unfair disadvantage for some construction workers, who have to prove that their experience is relevant to the jobs they are doing.
The Institute of Postgraduate Studies says there is an urgent need to make the WorkPermit scheme more flexible and to allow for more work placements.
The institute says it will work with the Government to develop a scheme that allows construction companies to pick people up to help with construction jobs.
“The Government needs more flexibility to accommodate the construction workers and give them the choice to be employed by a construction company,” the institute’s chief executive, David Smith, said.