Feb 6, 2004

The unemployed need real skills not cheap tricks


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 6 February 2004

Today’s announcement by the Minister for Employment Service, Mal Brough, that 200 unemployed people will be given mobile phones is a cheap substitute for the kind of individualised assistance they so desperately need.

While Labor welcomes any initiative aimed at improving a jobseeker’s chances of finding employment, providing them with a mobile phone will do little to improve their attractiveness to potential employers.

To emphasise this point a survey of jobseekers released earlier this week by the Australian Bureau Statistics found that a lack of skills, a lack of work experience, too many applicants for the job and being considered too young or too old were the key barriers to getting a job.

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.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources Job Network providers are unable to provide jobseekers with the form of assistance likely to improve their employment prospects – only 5% of jobseekers received any form of work experience, and despite the fact that half the unemployed have completed nothing more than basic schooling, only 14% received vocational training.

It is not surprising then that the number of people on unemployment benefits for more than 12 months is higher today (373,000) than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in March 1996 (350,000).

Furthermore, there is nothing “radical” about this latest initiative. Job Network providers are already able to provide this type of assistance to jobseekers by accessing the almost $200 million which have been put aside in the Jobseeker Account. However, due to the overly bureaucratic nature of accessing this money Job Network providers have to date been reluctant to utilise it.

The Government’s ailing Job Network is simply not working for the long-term unemployed.