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The official unemployment rate fails to capture the true extent of unemployment and underemployment according to a Catholic Pastoral Letter marking the 1 May Feast of St Joseph the Worker.

Bishop Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council said, “On this Feast Day we celebrate the importance of work to the human person – to the whole person, to the family and to the common wealth of our nation. We remember those who are denied their rightful claim to work and to the kind of work that supports family living.”

The Letter highlights the fact that the official rate of unemployment would double to around 13% if all those who were ‘underemployed’ or withdrawn from the labour market were taken into account. This provides a more realistic assessment of Australia’s economic performance over the past decade than the official figures would suggest.

“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 Pastoral Letter, The Human Costs behind the official unemployment rate.

For further information:

John Ferguson

National Executive Officer, ACSJC   

Dr Tim Battin

Snr Lecturer in Political Science, University of New England