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Published Date: 21-10-2008
Australia urged to deal with skills shortage
Australia is being urged to consider improved incentives to work and a more flexible immigration strategy to deal with its chronic skills shortage.

In its latest economic snapshot of Australia, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned the nation couldn't afford to overlook any potential workers given the chronic skills shortage and ageing population.

"Further policy action to improve incentives to work should be pursued as part of a broader strategy to improve participation outcomes," the OECD says.

"The greatest disincentives affect women with families and lone parents, disability relief recipients and older workers.

"Much scope remains, in particular, to raise participation rates of women and lone parents through improved financial incentives and better childcare facilities."

A paid maternity leave scheme would also encourage women to return to work sooner after giving birth, the OECD says.

It suggests a tightening of the eligibility for disability pensions, and wants the government to extend more onerous requirements to all recipients, as well as abolishing incentives for people to retire at 55.

Immigration should also be a key contributor to dealing with the skills shortage.

The OECD says there should be a simpler process for recognising overseas qualifications of migrants and recommends greater use of temporary migration schemes, such as the 457 visa.

And apart from attracting immigrants to Australia, the government needs to look at ways to get them into regional areas, where labour market shortages are most acute.

The government is also being warned not to take workplace reforms too far, diminishing the flexibility that has been a hallmark of industrial relations in Australia since the 1990s.

"The simplification and gradual decentralisation of industrial relations since the early 1990s has made the economy more resilient," the OECD says.

It acknowledges that equity issues troubled the workplace changes made by the former Howard government, but advises against doing anything to undermine labour market flexibility.

- Livenews

Posted By:Suman Rai

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