Jul 1, 2004

AM – Albanese discusses statistics on long-term unemployment

AM – Albanese discusses statistics on long-term unemployment

Thursday 1 July 2004

TONY EASTLEY: With the number of people who’ve been on unemployment benefits for more than five years increasing by two-thirds since 1999, Labor is accusing the Government of condemning more than 50,000 people to poverty.

Government figures show the number of long-term unemployed has risen from 75,000 in 1999 to 127,000 this year.

Labor says despite more than a decade of economic growth and prosperity, the Government has failed to make a dent in the levels of very long term unemployed. But the Government says many of the long term unemployed are studying or doing some part-time work.

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor asked the Government how many Australians have been on unemployment benefits for more than five years, and according to Labor’s employment spokesman, Anthony Albanese the news is bad.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well, these are devastating figures. They show that the number of long term unemployed, people who have been unemployed for five years or more, has increased nationally by 68 per cent up to 126,000 people. That’s 126,000 Australians condemned into poverty. These are Howard’s forgotten people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Anthony Albanese says most of these very long term unemployed are in outer suburban areas and regional Australia. The more decentralised the state, the bigger the increase.

The Shadow Minister says the extremely high levels of entrenched unemployment are unacceptable and occurring despite more than a decade of economic growth, prosperity and falling unemployment.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   If these sort of figures come out in that climate, then what will occur if there’s an economic downturn?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor says the explosion in long-term unemployment is a consequence of a fully privatised Job Network, and failed Government labour market policies.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Those people who least need assistance are those who are getting it, and the people who do need assistance simply aren’t getting the work experience, the programs that they need to get into a job.

Many of these people who have been through the job network customised assistance twice, simply aren’t getting any assistance now. They’ve been unemployed for more than five years and they’re literally just being put on a shelf by the Government and forgotten.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Anthony Albanese says Labor isn’t contemplating re-nationalising labour market assistance.

ANTHONY ALBANASE:   Well, certainly that is not the solution. Labor supports the Job Network, but quite clearly there is a need for policy change. There is a need to change the system so that those people who most need assistance do get it.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So what does that mean practically, though?

ANTHONY ALBANASE:   That means prioritising the disadvantaged, that means intervening to give the longer term unemployed experience in a mainstream work place. That means addressing issues of training and an approach to policy that links up social security and welfare with employment policy and training policy so that we increase the sustainable employment levels, particularly in our regions.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The minister who provided Labor with the figures, Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson, wasn’t available to speak to AM.

But her office said, though a statement, the Government takes long-term unemployment very seriously and will continue to develop policy that gives people real opportunities for real jobs.

It’s accused Labor of hiding long term unemployment by putting clients in quote "mickey mouse " job programs and then turning back the clock so they were classified as short term unemployed.

And according to the Government, the number of people on long-term unemployment payments has fallen 15 percent since 1999 and says more than a quarter of the long- term jobless on support payments are in part-time work or training.

TONY EASTLEY: Alexandra Kirk reporting from Canberra.