Mar 6, 2004

Work for the Dole helps fewer and fewer into a job


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 6 March 2004

New figures compiled by Labor reveal that not only has the Government’s Work for the Dole (WfD) program achieved consistently poor employment outcomes for jobseekers, but over time its success at getting people into work has progressively deteriorated.

Despite the significant investment of taxpayers’ funds ($665 million since 1997) every evaluation of WfD has consistently shown it to be a mediocre scheme at best.

The latest data from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) reveals that only 1 in 5 jobseekers (21.9%) were in employment three months after completing the program – of which the majority were only in part time work. The rest were either still unemployed (41.8%), receiving further employment assistance (28.8%) or no longer in the labour market (7.5%).

Worst still, since June 2000 the employment outcomes achieved by WfD have consistently deteriorated (See attached graph). Specifically, WfD’s employment outcomes have declined by a massive 20% since June 2000.

These latest findings dispel the myths continuously spread by the Howard Government. Just last week in Parliament the Minister for Employment Services, Mal Brough, claimed that WfD was a “wonderful work experience program … about giving people a hand”.

However, it’s not just Labor raising concerns about WfD in it current form. Late last year The Australian newspaper published confidential research commissioned by the Government and obtained under Freedom of Information. This confidential research concluded:

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

It found that jobseekers that participated in WfD are unemployed for significantly longer than those that did not.

It also warned that:

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

The reasons for these adverse outcomes are obvious: WfD offers limited employment experience – much of it in unskilled work – and little formal training. Furthermore, separate research undertaken by the University of New South Wales found that WfD participants were stigmatised, making it harder for them to secure mainstream employment.

By keeping people on unemployment benefits longer and not equipping them with the skills that will ensure they can move permanently from welfare into work, WfD is actually costing taxpayers more. Taxpayers are simply not getting value for money from Work for the Dole in its current form.

Labor created and believes in mutual obligation. However for it to be effective, government must fulfil its obligations to the unemployed.

Source: DEWR Labour Market Assistance Outcomes (various years)