One sided obligations will make it tougher for people looking for work: ACOSS

The Australian Council of Social Service today described the Federal Government’s proposed changes to job search requirements as one-sided and harsh, with Government investing too little to make a difference and jobseekers expected to undertake activities that will not help them get a job.

“Australia’s employment services system is premised on the notion of mutual obligation. The current policy proposals fail to meet the Government’s obligations,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Governments have a duty to provide income support and to help people to get a job, while people who are unemployed are required to search for jobs and participate in employment programs.

“The youth employment measure in the Federal Budget would breach the Government’s income support obligation by providing support for only six months a year in many cases. At the same time, Government investment in employment assistance is inadequate, at only half the OECD average (0.3% compared to 0.6%).

“New requirements appear to be designed to make unemployment unattractive rather than assist people obtaining employment. There is too much activity for activity’s sake and not enough flexible investment in what works such as wage subsidies and vocational training relevant to the labour market.

“The proposed expansion of the Work for the Dole program is likely to be expensive and ineffective. At least $1,500 per person is being invested in this program despite less one in four jobseekers getting a job after Work for the Dole.

“The doubling of the number of jobs people have to search for – from 5 to 10 jobs a week – is likely to be self-defeating and demoralising. It reflects thinking that jobseekers are mainly responsible for their own unemployment regardless of the availability of jobs or the individual’s personal circumstances. Missing is an equal onus on government to invest in strengthening people’s employment capacity.

“Capacity building is especially vital given that most people are now unemployed for over 12 months and half for over 2 years. Over 100,000 people have an assessed disability and another 100,000 are sole parents.

“ACOSS welcomes increased investment in wage subsidies for people who are unemployed long-term. We have long supported wage subsidies for young people who are unemployed long-term, but are concerned that this is being funded by a reduction of income support for young people who need it.

“We think wage subsidies should go to those experiencing long term unemployment and disadvantaged in the labour market, rather than eligibility being determined by age.

“The new model appears to provide more flexibility for providers to invest in individual jobseekers through reduced red tape but is dominated by a single program, Work for the Dole. This focus creates an ‘inflexible flexibility’ that overshadows other activities.

“We need to see greater investment in employment capacity building to ensure assistance is individualised rather than standardised. For instance, funds available to providers to invest in training and other help for people disadvantaged in the labour market range between just $850 – $1200 per year and access to vocational training will be much more limited than at present.

“Simply increasing job search requirements and increasing punishments without added investment will make it tougher for people looking for work, and skews the mutual obligation model against the very people the employment services system is meant to support,” Dr Goldie concluded.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155