ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“New data shows that in the last 12 months there has been a 10% jump in number of people reliant on Newstart, the unemployment payment, who have been unable to find a job for more than a year. The fact that now 70% of people relying on Newstart have been on that payment for more than a year, should alarm us all.
“With just one job available for every five people looking for paid work, the lack of job opportunities is a major driver in this increase.
“Major changes to social security have placed increasing pressure on people locked out of paid work. With both the previous and current Governments changing the rules about who is eligible for the Disability Support Pension, and also the Single Parenting Payment, many people with disabilities or significant caring responsibilities are now struggling to get by on Newstart and yet still unable to find paid work. They have joined the queue of people who are long-term unemployed, the only change for them being that they are poorer, by up to $170 per week. The single rate of Newstart is now just $37 a day.
“The new labour market data comes on the back of a report by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia showing that high unemployment is a significant issue in 23 out of 37 most disadvantaged communities around the country. Particularly concerning is the high level of youth disengagement in work or study, as well as low education and training levels.
“This rise in long-term unemployment is structural. We continue to call for the Federal Government to take this issue seriously. The lack of job opportunities is the major barrier to getting into work, as is a persistent failure of workplaces to provide flexible work.
“In addition, people who are unemployed long term often face additional barriers to getting a job, including lack of recent work experience, a mismatch of skills with jobs available and real challenges in sustaining hope in the face of repeated rejections of about 10 job applications a fortnight. On top of this, people on ‘welfare” face of the nasty stigma generated by Government and media rhetoric, which labels people as “leaners” “dole cheats’ or “milking the taxpayer” which does nothing to help support people, nor to build confidence in employers to give people a chance.
“A serious Jobs Plan for people who are long-term unemployed would involve serious investment in targeted assistance for people on an individual basis to support skills development and support. It would include investment in local coordination with employers and services working with people who are unemployed long-term, as well as improved services and transport, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
“An effective Jobs Plan would also include a real increase in the rate of Newstart, after 20 years of stagnation. Major changes to rules about the DSP and the Single Parenting Payment have saved millions of dollars and growing every year but have come at the expense of forcing many more people into poverty, and for longer. $37 a day is not enough.
“The Federal Government must also abandon the plan to deprive young people of income support for four weeks of each year and the Budget decision to cut the family payments of low income parents. These changes will only put more people into financial distress, not create jobs or put people in a better position to find paid work.
“We welcomed the modest new investment in wage subsidies by the Federal Government in this year’s Budget, providing an incentive for employers to give people real work in a real work place. Wage subsidies are far more effective in contrast to Work for the Dole which does not improve the job prospects of participants. However, the new Jobactive employment services program does not routinely provide people with substantial work experience and training, beyond Work for the Dole. No funds are allocated for Jobactive providers to invest in vocational training for people unemployed long term.
“Over 12 months ago, ACOSS, the ACTU and the BCA developed a clear set of agreed policies about what needs to be done to support people who are disadvantaged in the labour market. The solutions are clear. Governments must be prepared to work with us to find ways to address growing long term unemployment which keeps people excluded.”
Key Statistics from new ABS data:
Between June 2014 and June 2015:
- The total number of Long term NSA and YA(o) recipients increased from 559,100 to 612,953, an increase of 9.6%
- In June 2015: Of those on Newstart or Youth Allowance (Other), there are 612 953 long term recipients of total of 883 937 (69%)