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Womens' Work

So the government and various others have been involved in a "Job Summit" over the last week or so. I'm not sure their talk fest will really solve anything, but you have to admire them for giving it a go. There are a number of reasons why I don't think it will make a whole lot of difference and I have to say that many of those reasons have our patriarchal society at its roots.

Firstly, the supposed "skills" shortage: I am not sure that it exists to quite the extent that it is made of in the media. There are undoubtedly a shortage of people in a number of professions right now. Apparently this includes people in the construction and civil engineering areas, teachers, nurses and ICT professionals.

I confess that I don't know much about the construction industry, but it seems to me that the industry revolving around development and construction needs some serious reconsideration. Driving through the CBD in the last few days, it seems there is no shortage of construction of glass and steel high rises, despite reported acres of empty office space in the already existing buildings and a shortage of workers keen to return to the inner city areas to work. Meanwhile, in the burbs, tracts of forest and habitat are continually being mowed down for the sake of construction. I get that our population is expanding, but it seems to me, given housing prices and the like, that the problem is that our economy is way too closely linked to the housing/construction industry. It long ago stopped being about making sure Australians have a roof over their heads.

As far as the teaching and nursing professions go, (both female dominated professions, BTW), the problem is not so much a shortage of skilled personnel, but a workforce that is burnt out and frankly sick and tired of poor work conditions and lack of pay. Finding more "skilled" workers; whether it is by training them or importing them, is not going to solve the fundamental problem. It is only going to burn more people out. What needs to be done to solve the "skills shortage" in this area is to improve conditions and pay for those people.

When it comes to ICT, how about making University less expensive for students who run up debts into the tens of thousands of dollars (easily enough for a deposit on a house) just to give themselves a tertiary education? That education, it needs to be noted, is not a guarantee of employment either. Plus, there are older Australians assumed to be incapable of operating ICTs due to their age and lack of "native" ICT status, but who can run rings around younger computer geeks.

For all of the above, as an older female Australian, I have no doubt that despite rhetoric around a diverse workforce, women, particularly older women are often dismissed as prospective employees. Even if they don't have a tertiary education, the experience women have had bringing up children and/or managing a household makes them very skilled, in my book. Arguably, much more so than an inexperienced graduate, whatever the discipline. They may not be young, bubbly or pretty, or be able to spruke the right terminology, but the average older woman could turn their hand to most jobs with very little training.

Then there is the whole issue of bringing people in from other countries. There are potentially thousands of people all ready in country with amazing skills but who are not allowed to use them due to visa technicalities. At the end of the day, do we really have a skills shortage, or employers who are used to employing people on their terms, underpaying them and expecting them to give more than is reasonable to the company they work for? Perhaps rather than a skills shortage, we have a workforce who are not taking on jobs where they are going to be treated like dirt and paid pittance for doing so.

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