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FED: Rising unemployment positive for Defence recruitment

06 Jan 2009 2:35 PM
Subject: FED: Rising unemployment positive for Defence recruitment FED: Rising unemployment positive for Defence recruitment

CANBERRA, Jan 6 AAP - Tougher economic times and rising unemployment could be a blessing-in-disguise for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), new recruitment figures reveal.

The number of people applying to join the air force, army or navy jumped 18 per cent in the three months to December, while inquiries escalated a massive 25 per cent compared to the same period of a year ago.

Experts say the security of a defence job looks increasingly attractive as the global financial crisis continues to wreak havoc on the private sector.

"It is too early to suggest that any economic downturn is having a direct impact on ADF recruitment and retention," a defence spokesperson said in a statement.

"(But) over time, the ADF could expect to recruit high-quality applicants and retain those already serving for longer periods."

The RAAF recorded the biggest jump in applications.

In the 2008 December quarter, 1,256 people applied to join the air force, up 27 per cent from 989 in 2007.

Applications for the navy were up 20 per cent, while the army received a 15 per cent boost.

Overall 6,136 people applied for a job with the ADF between September and November.

The ADF has more than 50,000 members presently serving in the permanent force, up 1,500 in the last 12 months.

But defence is struggling to find enough skilled recruits to fill trade, engineering and health positions.

The Australia Defence Association says the economic downturn could help ease the skills crisis within the armed forces.

"It's one of the few silver linings in economic uncertainty that defence force recruitment and retention can pick up," association executive director Neil James said.

"There's more chance of recruiting tradespeople and professionals, and you're more likely to keep the ones you've got."

For instance, the submarine force has been suffering in Western Australia because of the resources boom.

"But as the mining boom slackens the problem we have manning submarines might not be as bad."

However, Mr James warned rising unemployment wouldn't solve all defence's problems because many people applying for a job wouldn't pass the entry standards.

It was a myth that high unemployment automatically meant the armed forces wouldn't have recruitment problems, he said.

"That's not as true as it used to be because most jobs in the defence force aren't unskilled anymore."

AAP jcd/rl/jj/jlw=0A

FED: Rising unemployment positive for Defence recruitment