Plan Now To Help Long-Term Jobless

12 March 2009

With Australia’s unemployment rate now at 5.2%, ABS figures for February show there are an extra 47,100 people looking for work. “ACOSS shares the concern of all Australians about rising unemployment. Sadly, there is likely to be dramatic upheaval in the lives of the tens of thousands of people who lost their jobs last month,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

While ACOSS welcomed the Government’s steps to help newly retrenched people – such as the $300 million for employment services announced in February – more assistance should be directed to people who unemployed for over a year, including introducing a paid work experience program.

“The longer a person is out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to get back in. Almost 60% of jobless people are on Newstart for over a year and 30% have received it for over two years,” said Clare Martin.

“If a person can participate in paid work experience in a regular job, it can help break the cycle of long term unemployment by keeping people in touch with the mainstream labour market, strengthening skills, confidence and work habits, and giving them access to employer references and contacts.”

“In 1-2 years, we can expect to see at sharp rise in long term unemployment. Government planning needs to start now on programs to tackle long term unemployment. Two years after the 1991 recession, long term recipients of Newstart Allowance more than doubled in number from 180,000 to 430,000.”

“Long term unemployment breeds social exclusion and erodes people’s skills, confidence and health. It can also lead to family breakdown, being forced to move to lower-rent areas where jobs are scarce and social problems become entrenched.”

ACOSS’ work experience program proposal would target people looking for work for over 12 months and involve:

  • 6 months of paid work experience in a regular job in the community and public sectors
  • Payment of a training wage, at National Training Wage levels – for example, 80% of the minimum wage.
  • Where the provider and the employer believe a jobseeker would benefit, vocational training to be provided during the placement – preferably linked to the work performed.
  • Mentoring and support for the trainees and their supervisors to be given by the employment service provider.
  • The cost of 25,000 places would be about $200 million.

Media Contact: Clare Cameron – 0419 626 155