Cutting aid costs jobs

May 22, 1991

By Norm Dixon

According to Janet Hunt of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, an increase in the foreign aid budget would create jobs for Australian teachers, doctors, dentists, engineers, technicians and others. Given the massive needs of the Third World, the scope is unlimited.

Contrary to its promises, the Hawke government has slashed international aid by 17% in real terms since 1984-85. Aid has declined from 0.5% to 0.33% of national income.

Hunt says the main priority is "training people from the developing world", but there is "certainly a role for Australians to be employed as trainers to help improve education, literacy, health and increase the provision of safe water".

The needs of the Third World include mass immunisation of children (which requires hundreds of health workers) and provision of safe water for 1.75 billion people and adequate sanitation for 3 billion (requiring virtually unlimited numbers of health workers, educators and technicians). There is a huge shortage of agricultural scientists and engineers to educate people in land use and appropriate technology, and to construct storage facilities. Campaigns against illiteracy require large numbers of teachers.

Hunt points out that aid to Third World development is not only humanitarianism. About 20% of unemployment in the United States is due to loss of export markets caused by declining economic activity in the Third World.

Other studies estimate that 2 to 3 million jobs have been lost in Western Europe because of reduced trade with the Third World, and that over a two-year period Canada lost $1.5 billion in exports and about 50,000 jobs.

"When the government came to power", Hunt said, "aid was 0.51% of GNP. Had it remained at that level, by this year we would have spent an additional $662 million on aid. Using the IMF formula, which takes into account a whole range flow-on effects, we can assume that the drop in aid has caused a drop in Australian GNP of over $1 billion this financial year."

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