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Bumpy start, but in 'three years, we'll be a totally different state'

Business

It’s been a rocky start to the year for South Australian employment.

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No sooner had we all welcomed in the New Year, new job loss announcements peppered the headlines.

Chiefly among them were our traditional industries. The transition to the state’s new economic identity – whatever that may be – is well underway.

Car part manufacturer SMR announced 140 positions would go, copper producer Oz Minerals cut 100 contractors and mining and manufacturing were shedding the staff they had disclosed the year before.

Then Woolworths announced yesterday it was pulling its doomed Masters stores out of SA and taking more than a thousand jobs with it, and killing off the previously touted opportunity to create many more.

Despite the bleakness now, the South Australia of 2016 is expected to look a lot different than it does today, assures the head of the state’s chief business group.

Business SA chief executive officer Nigel McBride told InDaily that as South Australia transitioned from traditional industries to new sectors, it would feel the pain before the gain.

And South Australia was right in the middle of the pain, he said.

“We need to be reminded where we’re going,” McBride said.

“Three years out we are going to be a totally different state.”

A state growing disengaged 

Recent national labour figures recorded a slight 0.2 per cent dip in South Australia’s unemployment to 7.2 per cent.

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistic records show 60,600 people are unemployed in South Australia while 878,000 people are registered in the state’s labour force.

However, the headline jobless figure – still the highest of all Australian states – hides a potentially larger problem for South Australians.

McBride said the underemployment and underutilised figures for SA were more concerning to business group than unemployment.

Latest ABS figures registered 91,000 underemployed South Australians – those who want to work more but the hours are not available to them.

South Australia women make up a large portion of this figure, with 51,300 underemployed. Men fared slightly better with 39,700.

Counterintuitively, ABS stats released just before the unemployment figures showed an increase in job vacancies in South Australia.

In fact, while hundreds of new and predicted jobs were shed during 2015, the state experienced a 22 per cent jump in jobs availability, compared with the number of positions available for the same time last year.

Around South Australia, more than 10,000 jobs are sitting waiting to be filled, according to the ABS data.

Many of those vacancies are being created by small to medium enterprises, a sector gaining much attention from the State Government and which it believes can fill the void being left by traditional manufacturing.

Yesterday Adelaide-headquartered Beston Global Foods, with its stable of SMEs, announced a partnership with one of the largest importers and distributors of food products in Hong Kong.

With the Sunwah Group, Beston hopes to market and distribute South Australian products through Hong Kong, Macau and parts of southern China.

Food and wine companies like Beston represent some of the rays of light, but there is still more pain to come. The final wave of workers have yet to finish up at Holden’s Elizabeth plant with the resulting impact on components companies, Alinta’s Port Augusta power station is set to close and jobs are in limbo at Techport as the Federal Government decides on who will build our next naval fleet.

However, McBride said Adelaide would not go the same way as other cities reliant of manufacturing.

“We’re not Detroit.

“We’ve a much more diverse economy and we won’t suffer the same fate as Detroit.”

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