Higher indigenous employment could reap $24 billion reward

CLOSING the indigenous employment gap could bring a massive $24 billion injection to Australia's gross domestic product, a report on raising employment levels has found.

The Deloitte Access Economics report found if employment levels of indigenous Australians reached that of other Australians by 2031, it could also add some $7.2 billion to government coffers.

Commissioned by Reconciliation Australia, the report found closing the employment gap would add more than 1.15% to GDP - or about $24 billion in 2012-13 dollars.

RA co-chairman Dr Tom Calma said the report made a "strong economic case" for national efforts to improve outcomes in indigenous employment, health and education.

And nowhere would the benefits be stronger than in regional Australia.

Dr Calma said the report's three case study areas, Fitzroy in central Queensland, Blacktown in western Sydney and central Australia showed efforts to improve indigenous employment should not just concentrate on Australia's most remote areas.

The report found up to three quarters of the economic benefits of boosting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment levels would be found in regional and urban populations.

RA co-chairwoman Melinda Cilento said the retail industry in the Fitzroy region would only need an extra 75 indigenous employees out of its total retail workforce of 9800 to "close the gap".

Report author and Deloitte partner Dr Ric Symes said improving the circumstances of indigenous Australia was not just a major social challenge, but also a big issue for the nation to improve the economy.

"The potential economic gains, in terms of greater national wealth and stronger government budgets illustrate the benefits which the country would achieve as a result of improvements to Indigenous life-expectancy, employment and productivity," he said.

"These gains complement the primary benefits of addressing Indigenous disadvantage, namely enhancing the well-being and life experiences of Indigenous Australians."

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