Nov 20, 2003

Secret Government report: Work-for-the-Dole keeps people unemployed longer


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 20 November 2003

A report commissioned by the Howard Government found that its $650 million Work for the Dole (WfD) program makes it harder for jobseekers to find work, leaving them unemployed for longer.

This is the key finding contained in a suppressed Government report that has been obtained by The Australian newspaper under Freedom of Information. This report, written by the University of Melbourne’s Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng for the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), has been with the Government since June.

The report concluded:

“…there appear to be quite large significant adverse effects of participation in WfD.” (pg ii)

Specifically, it found that jobseekers that participated in Work for the Dole are unemployed for significantly longer than those that did not. Or in the words of the report:

“A detailed time-series analysis showed that the WfD effect on exit from unemployment payments becomes progressively more negative throughout the duration of the WfD program.”(pg 25)

The adverse effects were greater for women, older jobseekers and jobseekers in regions with high unemployment.

According to the report there are three reasons Work for the Dole has such adverse effects:

“(i) Stigma effect; (ii) Effect on job search activity – Participation in WfD may allow participants to reduce their job search activity, and may adversely affect the type of job search activity undertaken; and (iii) Scale of intervention – The WfD program represents a relatively ‘minimalist’ intervention. Of these explanations, the potential ‘chilling’ effect of WfD on job search activity seems to be most supported by international evidence.” (pg iii-iv)

The report also found:

“…there may be some permanent scarring effect on Work for the Dole participants.” (pg 25)

All Australians should be concerned by these findings. By keeping people on unemployment benefits longer, Work for the Dole is actually costing us more.

No wonder the Government wanted this independent report suppressed. It directly contradicts the propaganda the Government has been churning out for the past 6 years.

The unearthing of this report exposes the Government’s cynical use of the unemployed for political advantage.

The Government now has a plethora of research that indicates that their mutual obligation programs are actually hindering the chances of the unemployed finding work.

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

Labor believes in mutual obligation. The Borland/Tseng report highlights that the Government has not been fulfilling its obligations to the unemployed.