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National Green Jobs Corps: knee-jerk or compromise?
July 31, 2009, 10:20 pm
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I’m loving the phrase ‘National Green Jobs Corps’. It doesn’t lend itself very well to acronymity but it does give the air of a revolution; a revolution that will sweep across the country like a huge wholesome broom, leaving nothing but a few specks of evasive dust in its wake**.

Like ‘working families’ and ‘the education revolution’ it’s positioned to become a KRudd buzzword in response to some key issues.

Pressure has been mounting in Australian politics.

  1. With unemployment figures up and murmurs that real unemployment is even higher, the message has been clear – young people need jobs. Most of the debate has centred over whether Gen Y needs to sacrifice ideals to make a living, but the underlying fact is that if unemployment rises much further our economy will be screwed.
  2. The Opposition has started pointing out all of the election promises which have not yet been delivered, or will not reach the extent promised. See aforesaid education revolution.
  3. One ‘hot’ issue is climate change, with the two major parties unable to reach agreement on carbon trading implementation. Failure to agree = failure to act => unhappy Greens.
  4. Debt, and the free and giving nature of stimulus packages, have also been an issue. Some pressure has been applied to create employment solutions instead of patching up needs with social security payments.

So ALP strategists have decided to address all four with the Green Jobs Corps. (Details here.)

So, is it a knee-jerk policy to keep the public at bay or a healthy compromise that will yield results?

There’s a few problems.

The immediate benefits have been exaggerated. As admitted today, the Liberals have a point – out of the 50,000 to make up the ‘National Green Jobs Corps’ only 10,000 will directly receive ’employment’ (uhm, work experience***). The rest will be relying on new skills to give them an edge, often competing with more experienced traders.

The skills produced may not be in demand. Hiking up the supply side without simultaneous investment in demand may just lead to upskilled unemployed people instead of regular unemployed people. This is especially a problem if all of the ‘green skilled workers’ emerge at the same time.

It requires national co-ordination of human resources.It also assumes that there’ll be that many youth interested in the trade who live close enough to where training will be provided, and that there’s enough relevantly skilled people just hanging around waiting to train them.

Will it reduce unemployment? Maybe.
Does it address environmental concerns? It fills in one of the gaps required to make Australia ‘greener’ but has less direct impact.
Does it reduce dependency on government handouts? Not unless it is successful – and what hasn’t been released is how much this will cost.

No policy is perfect – this one isn’t. But this will keep the din a little quieter for a while and sets up some long-term change. Enough puffery to give the Opposition something to snarl about and keep the media talking, which is not a bad PR strategy.

Let’s see how long this ship sails.

**I do have a dramatic tendency, but it is only fitting for the revolution. Which is this case is probably closest to French, as it’s too leftist to be American and not gritty enough to be Cuban.
***Arbib’s assertion that work experience is a job was waved away as an error by KRudd and JGillard. Perhaps it was a fortunate one, because it distracted the press away from the remaining 40,000.

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