How Many Jobs is 23,510, Really? Recasting the Mining Job Loss Debate
It is commonplace in Australian policy debate for groups presumed to be adversely affected by proposed policies to provide estimates of the undesirable consequences of change. A fashionable form relates to predictions of job losses for the group affected, usually accompanied by counter-claims made by the government of the day or other groups in favour of the policy. A highly public example of the above is the claim by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), based on work done in 2009 by Concept Economics (2009) that the then-planned Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) would result in 23,510 fewer jobs in Australian mining than would otherwise be the case. Our research reports on findings using three different data series and methods to put into context the supposed jobs loss figure. Our results should not be taken to mean that economic policy reform is costless to all employees who might be affected by sectoral changes in the labour market, and there remain clear roles for government to minimise the personal costs for those so disadvantaged. As well, the details of this research cannot be translated into precise analyses of the employment effects of the carbon price policy being developed by the current government. But the essential points concerning the size and meaning of mining sector employment effects should not be in dispute; the alleged "jobs losses" aspect of the climate change policy debate is not in any sense important to the overall discourse.
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