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Indigenous labour supply constraints in the West Kimberley

Aboriginal Australians Labour force Australia

This paper examines a set of supply-side issues that undermine successful Indigenous participation in the West Kimberley resource boom.The West Kimberley is the latest region in Western Australia poised to reap huge benefits from a super-cycle of resource exploitation. Labour demand is at an all-time high and challenges in securing an adequate labour supply are already emerging. Juxtaposed is an Indigenous population that has sizeable cohorts moving into working-age groups but is poorly situated to share in the benefits of economic growth for want of adequate capacities to participate. As a companion to CAEPR Working Paper 35, this paper examines a set of supply- side issues that undermine successful Indigenous participation. These are more wide-ranging than just the skill-set brought to the labour market, and include many of the factors that underpin the very acquisition of such skills in the first place. Importantly, they include key points of intersection between Indigenous peoples and government policy. Three of these are examined here: housing, health and interaction with the criminal justice system. Essential background to the analysis is provided by examining recent change to that most fundamental element of labour supply, namely the size and composition of the regional working-age population.

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