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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2007, 03:40 GMT 04:40 UK
Australia targets jobless surfers
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Australian coast
The government says coastal areas have pockets of unemployment
Welfare recipients living in some beach areas will be the target of a new crackdown by the Australian government.

Ministers say that some coastal towns have "stubbornly" high unemployment where people refuse to work and choose instead to surf and relax on the beach.

The Australian economy has enjoyed 15 years of strong growth, and unemployment is at a 30-year low.

But ministers are concerned that jobless rates in some seaside towns are way above the national average.

Full employment

Australia's conservative government has made full employment a key objective ahead of a general election later this year.

There is a high correlation between high unemployment and coastal areas
Andrew Robb,
Further Education Minister

One option would be to force people to work for their welfare benefits a lot sooner than they have to at the moment.

Further Education Minister Andrew Robb says changes are needed.

"We've got too many jobs chasing too few people, yet there are still pockets of potential labour around the country," he says.

"We've got areas where there aren't any jobs, and we've got other areas where they're desperate for workers.

"There is a high correlation between high unemployment and coastal areas. We need to put some pressure in some of those areas."

Australia's official unemployment rate is just over 4%.

A chronic skills shortage has left some industries awash with jobs.

The government is recruiting thousands more skilled workers from overseas to plug gaps in the labour market.

Without this army of foreign accountants, health professionals and hairdressers, there are fears that Australia's booming economy could begin to stumble after years of strong growth.

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