One of Australia's most respected workplace economists says there is no evidence that ''work for the dole'' schemes actually work, accusing the federal government of expanding the program for political, rather than economic, reasons.
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New rules may send job seekers homeless
New requirements for unemployed people could leave many without any options and spark a rise in homelessness, warns ACOSS.
The Abbott government will force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month and perform up to 25 hours of community service as part of a new job placement program, set to begin on July 1, 2015.
Details of the three-year, $5.1 billion program were released on Monday, along with an overhaul of the country's work for the dole program.
Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker said taxpayers expected the unemployed to be looking for work, and that it was ''not unreasonable to expect job seekers to be out there looking for work, every working day''.
But Professor Jeff Borland from the University of Melbourne - who conducted the only empirical study of the Howard government's work for the dole scheme - says years of research show such schemes are unlikely to help people find jobs.
''The international evidence is overwhelming,'' he said. ''It's hard to believe that the government couldn't understand that this isn't the best way to improve people's employability.
''I guess you have to conclude that there are other reasons for wanting to expand the program, and the title of the scheme [work for the dole] suggests it's being done for political reasons.''
Labor has warned businesses will face a deluge of fake job applications under the government's measures.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz said that could be a fair criticism.
''We as a government do not want box-ticking to take place,'' he told ABC TV. ''We don't want red tape and inconvenience to employers, but what we do want is a genuine attempt by the job seeker to obtain employment.''
Senator Abetz said the unemployed shouldn't be choosy about the type of jobs available and any work experience was beneficial.
''There are clearly some job snobs around. We do need to encourage them, for their own sake, for their own benefit - to get them off welfare, into employment,'' he said.
Under the government's proposed overhaul, job seekers younger than 30 will be ineligible for welfare payments for six months after applying for benefits, and they will have to work 25 hours a week for six months of the year. Those between 30 and 49 will be asked to do 15 hours' work a week for six months a year, while those aged 50-60 will undertake 15 hours a week of an approved activity, such as training. But young job seekers will also be required to apply for 40 jobs a month and meet other activity requirements for unemployment benefits.
The Business Council of Australia said it welcomed parts of the government's new model, such as the clearer targeting of assistance for people most in need, and the focus on rewarding job outcomes, but more action would be needed to find the right balance in connecting job seekers with employers.
''We are concerned about the practicality of asking people to apply for 40 jobs each month in the current softening labour market,'' BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
NSW Business Chamber chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright said the government was right to espouse the principle of mutual obligation, saying there was no doubt some welfare recipients did not want to work, but added: ''I am not convinced that firing off 40 random job applications each month, regardless of the suitability of those jobs or the likelihood of success, is sound policy.''
David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, which represents non-profit employment service providers, said he could not see how some young job seekers would be able to survive under the regime.