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Work for dole schemes no help in finding jobs, says expert


Gareth Hutchens, Anna Patty, Dan Harrison

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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.

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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.

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.

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  • Work for the dole is not about making people Jon ready. It's about 'proving' that governments are 'doing something' about unemployment.

    It's a handy distraction from government impotence to create an environments for businesses to employ or train people and is particularly appealing to people who never have been unemployed in their life.

    Date and time
    July 29, 2014, 6:57AM
    • How on earth will people who have no income, without a dollar of government support (the thing we used to call the safety net), going to be job ready at any point? This extremist party will have those lining up at soup vans to feed themselves somehow magic up the resources to apply for 40 jobs a month before even qualifying for unemployment benefits.

      This is an absurd ideological rant by a bunch of conservatives who have not a clue how to govern for ALL Australians. Abbott & Co live in la la land.

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:45AM
    • whilst at the same time the extreme bisunist government continues to sponsor the wealthy to concentrate even more wealth of the nation to the few.

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:46AM
    • Surprise surprise another Melb Uni academic adopts a left wing position, arguing a government policy is only being implemented for political purposes.

      Forcing unemployed people to actually apply for jobs - Oh the horror!!!

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:00AM
    • @notfooled But he's adopting a 'left wing' based on EVIDENCE. It doesn't work. It's been shown not to work. Regardless of your political affiliation why would you support the spending of $5.1b on a policy that doesn't work?

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:07AM
    • Great policy, I wonder who Abbott's going to appoint as the Minister for Crime Waves, Robberies and Suicides which is the only thing this policy will achieve.

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:09AM
    • @notfooled.. 800,000+ unemployed in Australia & only 120,000 jobs at any given time.. The math just doesn't add up. We don't need more people applying for jobs, we need to create more jobs (& ensure people are trained to do them).

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:18AM
    • Let's go back to basics here - just to clarify how stupid 'Work-for-the-dole' really is.
      To successfully implement the capitalist system, people were convinced that it was a good idea to sell their labour for a wage. The capitalists benefited and 'workers' sold their labour based on the skills they had to offer.

      Fast forward to 2014 and the neo-Liberal/ Concervatives (mostly Tea Party politics of the LNP). The government is dictating what skills are to be sold, and legalising slave labour for those who have different skills, but have no capitalists to sell their labour/skills to (i.e. making them work for the dole - which kicks in 6 months later).
      Of course, this is all buried under mountains of rhetoric and propaganda on feelings of 'worth' and 'value-adding' to the community. It totally negates the basic system that was set up initially - that a worker chose what skills/labour they had to sell. The worker - NOT the government. On the basic level - anyone can see this is ideologically driven - and WRONG!

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:20AM
    • That pretty much sums it up F! Not is the policy highly flawed, the language it's often couched in is pretty disturbing. But from a government who used the term "lifters and leaners" anything is possible I guess. While I'm used to the demonisation of asylum seekers (largely thanks to Howard), who would have thought that many of us already here - Australian citizens - would be disparaged so readily and frequently.

      Politically this seems crazy! It's as if Abbott and co have grabbed the Howard ball and run the wrong way! Who on earth does this policy and rhetoric appeal to? Those who receive no welfare officially? (Unofficially, we ALL receive something from society and the tax system.) This household doesn't get any family payments and the like, nor do we qualify for any pension or dole. Are we supposed to be won over by nasty policies affecting those who do?? All they do is make us despise the government even more!

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:27AM
    • So Abbott lied about creating jobs jobs jobs now he must create the illusion all unemployed are dole bludgers. Well Mr Abbott I have worked for 41 years never unemployed until 8 months ago when my employer went into liqudation. I am NOT a dole bludger.

      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 9:31AM

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