That spare capacity includes the 2.8 million people who are not working the number of hours they would like or need to work, and those who were previously unemployed but had given up looking for a job.
“For every person in Australia reported in the labour force statistics as unemployed, there are four others who want to work but are not actively searching or available to work, or who want to work more hours,” the white paper said.
Chalmers said it was about creating a dynamic, and a more inclusive labour market, but also about strengthening the economy.
“Obviously, in order to lift living standards and to get wages moving in a responsible and sustainable way, we need to make our economy more productive, more dynamic, more competitive,” he said.
The treasurer on Friday unveiled the first federal government surplus in 15 years, which he said was a result of saving higher-than-expected tax revenue, spending restraint, and savings.
The final budget figures showed $13.2 billion in additional tax receipts helped boost the budget bottom line.
The majority of that – $12.7 billion – was from a higher corporate tax take, thanks to higher prices for resources such as iron ore. Those prices have been driven up as the war in Ukraine disrupted (and continues to disrupt) supplies of commodities.
Another factor that helped was that government payments were $4 billion less in 2022-23 than originally expected, and that was largely due to lower-than-expected demand for COVID-related products and services.
That included spending $700 million less than expected on Medicare Benefits Scheme services such as COVID-related pathology, and $500 million less on PBS products driven by a lower uptake in COVID-19 vaccines.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the federal government also found $40 billion in savings over its first two budgets, including $7 billion in the 2022-23 financial year, which has helped the bottom line.
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the surplus had been delivered off the back of strong commodity prices and it was unclear if Labor could repeat the feat in its next budget.
“This surplus was largely driven by soaring commodity prices and higher tax receipts from Australians working harder for less to keep up with skyrocketing bills and prices under Labor,” he said.
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