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Bishop attacks sham economic prosperity statistics

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders has said that statistics boasting Australia's lowest unemployment rate since 1981 mask an actual decline in full-time employment.

"It has been the growth in part-time and casual employment, much of it insecure and poorly paid, which has bolstered the overall employment figures," he said. "In such a setting the 'official' rate of unemployment is far less meaningful than when full-time employment was a more typical pattern of work."

Bishop Saunders devoted the Commission's annual statement for tomorrow's Feast of St Joseph the Worker to the "significant number of Australians who have not enjoyed a fair share of the national prosperity".

He said: "Consideration of the circumstances of people who are underemployed or excluded from the labour market but who are not included in the official unemployment statistics would provide a more sober assessment of our nation's economic performance."

Bishop Saunders says the official rate of unemployment would double to around 13% if all those who were 'underemployed' or withdrawn from the labour market were taken into account.

"We cannot be content with our nation's economic performance while so many are unemployed or underemployed", Bishop Saunders said. "There can be legitimate disagreement about policy options to address these problems, but we will fail to find adequate solutions if we do not acknowledge the extent of a problem that is hidden behind the official overall unemployment statistics."

The statement repeats an earlier call, in 2003, from the heads of Christian churches and leaders of the Jewish and Islamic faiths for a national forum on poverty.

"The religious leaders identified the issue of unemployment as an important focus of such a forum. We must address the emergence of second and third generation unemployment in Australia and the needs of hundreds of thousands of children in families that have never known an adult in regular employment", Bishop Saunders concluded.

The human costs behind the official unemployment rate (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council 30/4/04)

The Human Costs behind the official unemployment rate (Text of Pastoral Letter)
ACSJC Briefing May 2004
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Charities warns of emergence of permanent underclass (CathNews 6/4/04)
IMF predicts continued strong growth for the Australian Economy (Federal Treasurer Media Release 22/4/04)

30 Apr 2004