Jun 23, 2003

Study finds government causing greater unemployment


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 23 June 2003

Government policies are actually prolonging unemployment amongst many jobseekers, particularly those with significant barriers to employment.

This was the conclusion of research jointly undertaken by the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Public Policy, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The report entitled Much Obliged found that the long-term unemployed “were so engaged in meeting their [Centrelink] requirements that these seemed to have replaced actual job search activities.” (pg v – vi)

The report found that for many disadvantaged jobseekers meeting the Government’s current mutual obligation regime was a job in itself. Or in the words of the report:

“In effect … the system operates for many disadvantaged jobseekers not as ‘welfare to work’ but ‘welfare as work’.” (pg vi)

While I welcome this new research, job seekers and in particularly, the long-term unemployed, don’t need another report to tell them that the Government’s cornerstone labour market program, the Job Network, is failing them.

Persistent high levels of long-term unemployment are indisputable proof that the Howard Government’s Job Network is failing to place the unemployed into jobs. The number of people receiving benefits long-term is today (380,000) higher than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in 1996 (350,000).

It is obvious that under this Government the long-term unemployed have been abandoned to the ravages of the marketplace.

Employment Services Minister, Mal Brough, boasted to Parliament on 13 March 2002:

“Job Network and Work for the Dole are about assisting people back into work. This government will never apologise for throwing the book at those who do not do what is expected and required of them by the public.”

This latest research clearly shows that in fact the Howard Government has closed the book on the unemployed and is more concerned with vilifying and punishing those Australians unfortunate enough to be jobless.

While the current Government believes that simply keeping jobseekers active filling in paperwork 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.

The Government now has a plethora of research that indicates that their policies are actually hindering the chances of the long-term unemployed finding work. What we need now is to hear what the Government is going to do rectify their policy mistakes.

Instead of finding new ways to breach the unemployed, the Government should be investing more in the type of assistance that will help them move permanently from welfare into work.