• Workers on building site
    Workers on building site

Australia’s rigid occupational licensing and restrictive housing market are a handbrake on more Australians moving into jobs suited to their skills,” according to a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) report released today.

CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento, said Australia needs to be addressing skills shortages and lifting lacklustre productivity to drive a stronger economy and wages.

“Australia must break down entrenched barriers in the jobs market,” she said.

“Major structural shifts including digital transformation, the energy transition and an ageing population will require a much more agile labour market.”

In a submission to the federal government’s Employment White Paper, CEDA found occupational licensing is widespread with around one in five people in jobs with registration requirements.

CEDA analysis of the OECD’s indicator of occupational entry regulations shows that the level of licensing on personal services in New South Wales and Queensland is among the top five most restrictive of 21 OECD nations including the US, UK, Canada and Europe.

CEDA said Australia could gain up to $5 billion each year from reform to match the best performing countries in this area, going beyond mutual recognition.

“Unlocking the full scale of benefits would involve removing mobility restrictions across all occupations and matching Sweden by removing licensing of personal services such as taxi drivers, building trades, plumbers and painters,” the report said.

The report calls for the removal of licensing and a shift to regulations which focus on quality standards for goods and services within consumer law.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) was the first to condemn the report as a dangerous thought bubble.

ETU acting national secretary Michael Wright said labelling trades as personal services was ridiculous.

“A skilled workforce performing important safety checks are the backbone of Australia’s licensing systems. It’s no accident that Australia has one of the lowest rates of household electrical fires in the western world - it’s because we have amongst the highest standards in training for our electrical workers,” Wright said.

“Winding back safety regulations is a recipe for disaster which puts all of us at risk.

“Safety laws are there for a reason. Any attempt to give consumer law primacy over legislation which is written to save lives is madness.”