AUSTRALIA must get many more people into the labour force or working more, Julia Gillard has said.
In her first economic speech of 2011, the Prime Minister said: ''To the maximum extent possible, I want to ensure that every Australian who can work, does work.
''I want to ensure that the incentives of work always outweigh the attractions of staying on welfare''.
With Australia now technically at full employment and the mining boom creating a skills shortage that will affect the rest of the economy, Ms Gillard said up to 2 million working-age Australians were not in the full-time workforce or registered for work.
The government looked ''with particular care and concern'' at this large number. Of the 2 million, about 800,000 were in part-time jobs but wanted to work more. Another 800,000 were outside the labour market, including discouraged job seekers. Also, many thousands on disability pensions might have some capacity to work.
''We know that not all of them can work right away. Many of them will need re-skilling; the right mix of incentives; help to overcome ill-health or meet family responsibilities,'' she said.
''But we do want them to re-engage with the workforce and gain the benefits that come from having a job - increased income, social engagement and friendship, self-esteem and well-being.''
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