From laggard to leader: making South Australia the secure jobs state

Employee protection Economic indicators Wages Work insecurity Employment South Australia

South Australia has done well to avoid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state has not been immune to its economic impacts. Though buoyed by state and federal stimulus, South Australians nevertheless felt pressures on their livelihoods. Jobs were lost, unemployment rates grew, and see-sawing restrictions, both within the state and elsewhere, created uncertainty among consumers.

Many of the key indicators that measure the health of South Australia’s economy looked to have recovered. Headline unemployment rates are back to pre-pandemic levels, the state’s population had ticked marginally upwards, and business confidence is returning.

These statistics should be welcomed. But policy-makers and South Australians mustn’t rest on the laurels of the state’s success in combatting COVID-19, and see a return to a pre-pandemic economic normal as success. This is because South Australia’s pre-pandemic economy itself needed a considerable facelift, and key challenges facing the state’s jobs market, in particular, remain insignificantly addressed.

This report takes stock of this dynamic, and argues for a better deal for South Australian workers. No longer should policy-makers accept mediocrity in jobs quality in the state. The economy should work for everyone, and act as a step-ladder towards security, dignity and opportunity for the less fortunate. Currently, this isn’t always the case – with many South Australians stranded in insecure work that might pay the bills today, but doesn’t allow them to reliably plan for tomorrow.

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