Mar 27, 2003

Job network mark 3 does little for the forgotten people


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 27 March 2003

Today’s announcement by the Government of the 109 organisations who will form Job Network Mark 3 cannot conceal the fundamental inadequacies in the system, particularly its incapacity to assist the most disadvantaged jobseekers.

The deficiencies in Job Network Mark 3 are obvious.

1. Not enough is being invested to improve job outcomes for the most disadvantaged jobseekers. The Government boasts it has cut $2 billion from employment services over the past 5 years (Australian Financial Review, 27 March 2003, p7).

The establishment of Job Seeker Accounts is a welcome, if belated acknowledgement that current levels of investment in disadvantaged jobseekers has been inadequate. However, at around $900 it won’t buy enough of the help really needed such as paid work experience or vocational training.

While the current Government believes that simply keeping jobseekers active will lead to future employment opportunities, Labor recognises that without relevant skills and recent experience in a mainstream workplace, jobseekers will continue to find it difficult convincing employers to take them on.

Job Network 2 clearly made no impact on the levels of long term unemployment. FaCS data shows that the number of people on the dole for more than 12 months is today higher than when the Howard Government was first elected to office.

2. Providers are confronted with a significant layer of additional bureaucratic requirements, including the arbitrary requirements that jobseekers must be engaged in 3 days a week of unspecified “activity” while on Customised Assistance, and large numbers of compulsory interviews. These requirements will hinder the capacity of providers to response innovatively to the requirements of jobseekers.

3. Jobseekers will essentially be tied to one provider until either they find employment or reach retirement age.

The Productivity Commission’s 2002 report considered the implications of the changes due to take affect from 1 July this year, and concluded:

“The proposals for Customised Assistance under the Active Participation Model guarantees a much higher level of interaction with jobseekers … However, there is no guarantee that individual jobseekers will get access to any Job Seeker Account funds or that the 3 day a week requirement need amount to genuinely significant assistance. Accordingly, some jobseekers with large barriers to employment may not get much direct assistance from the Job Network.” (p 9.29)

The Commission paints a bleak outlook for the 394,499 Australians who have been on the dole for more than a year. It’s all good and well having a system that sends text messages to people’s mobile phones but what the unemployed are waiting for most is a real job.