Our state’s economic boom can be positive but only if the spoils are shared with all (The Mercury Talking Point, 04/11/19)

THE strong economic performance of Tasmania provides a sense of optimism, that we could turn a corner and set up our state for a better future.

We should feel proud that we are able to attract investment, new residents and visitors to our beautiful island.

But we still have a long way to go before we can celebrate a good life for all Tasmanians.

Measuring and understanding the human experience and outcome of economic growth, not just the rate of growth is critical.

Our definition of economic success should be inclusive growth that benefits all Tasmanians, not just growth that assumes growth alone will achieve a better life for all.

As we consistently measure up well in the national rankings economically, now is the time to turn our focus to how we ensure the growth is sustainable beyond the traditional cycles we have previously seen.

Tasmania is not alone in experiencing strong economic growth that has not been matched by an improvement in the living standards of the general population, and in many examples, an actual decline in living standards.

For example the establishment of the Scottish Inclusive Growth Commission was in response to the impact of economic growth that was only benefiting a few.

The first comprehensive report released by the commission provides lessons highly relevant to the current situation in Tasmania.

For example it asserts four “high risk zones” as indicators of the unsustainable nature of economic growth if not addressed.

These align closely with current Tasmanian issues:

1) Entrenched long term unemployment

2) People cycling in and out of increasingly low secure, low paid and low skilled jobs

3) A hollowing-out of skills and mismatch of skills to the new jobs emerging

4) Skills under-utilisation and reduction in the public service.

TasCOSS has advocated strongly for policy and budget responses and strategies that recognise these areas of growing need in Tasmania that are increasingly seeing more and more Tasmanian jobseekers locked out of existing employment opportunities. Unlocking our potential and ensuring we are investing in the skills, access to essential services and building the capacity of local people to tackle local issues is a strategic approach being adopted internationally.

The Tasmanian Government has funded the establishment of a Strategic Growth Framework and dedicated over $6 million as an important first step in recognising and responding to this need.

It is encouraging that the Premier will lead this work.

It provides an opportunity for leadership like we have seen in other strong, multiagency Tasmanian policy reforms such as tackling family violence.

This challenge needs a multi-agency response that enables the integration of economic and social policy — at a central government and community level.

Ultimately, we need more Tasmanians to be able to share in the economic growth.

For local people to take up new and emerging opportunities they need to be supported in gaining the skills, transport, health and wellbeing at the level required.

We cannot celebrate our strong economy until we can also measure improved outcomes for Tasmanians alongside of improved economic growth.

We need to measure what counts most to Tasmanians — being able to live a good life and able to take up the opportunities Tasmania has to offer.

Kym Goodes is chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS).