Work for the dole is a very, very contentious issue in Australia. Let us make no mistake here, there are valid arguments for and against, despite what both “sides” have to say.
People on the NewStart allowance are in many ways like asylum seekers: they are a demographic a proportion of the population loves to hate, labelling them “dole bludgers”.
I was once unemployed for five months and my husband lived for a time with no working rights. We can both say that doing something, anything, during those dark days saved our sanity. My husband did volunteer work and I did casual work for the employment service provider I was registered with (so I actually received very little NewStart at all). I know I would have been in a very dark place had I not done that casual work.
Right now we have a Miss 19 who would LOVE the opportunity of an internship to learn some basic office skills and add experience to her resume. She hates being at home and I see the stress it is causing her.
Getting out of the house and having contact with other people is so very necessary, being able to actually feel useful is so necessary, in our personal experience. Would work for the dole really achieve these for job seekers?
I’m also a tax payer. I firmly believe a good society supports and helps those in our society needing help and support. I find some of the cuts and reviews proposed by the current Australian government totally unacceptable. I also have no problem with the basic principle of people doing something for their NewStart allowance HOWEVER I also have major concerns around how such a principle is implemented. Principle and practicality are two different things.
Realistically, if an employer is getting a job done satisfactorily by a job seeker and the employer needs that job done, why not simply employ the job seeker at the going rate for the job? If we don’t have enough jobs for job seekers, then there won’t be any roles for the job seekers to undertake in a work for the dole capacity, one would think. The concept of work for the dole MUST NOT be implemented as a way for business to acquire cheap labour. I note the Government has stated it wants to ensure the work for the dole scheme does not remove incentives for business to provide access to paid work, stating it would see not-for-profit organisations as the appropriate recipients of the work provided by the job seekers. This is fine, but the risk of creating an ever-shrinking job market to take advantage of government funded labour has to be guarded against. Of course, less taxpayers from a shrinking labour market would mean less general revenue to fund the work for the dole so it would become self-defeating.
The practicalities for the actual job seekers must be realistically assessed. Let’s take the situation of the single parents who have been recently moved to NewStart by virtue of their youngest child having reached eight years of age. It may very well be that the parent could benefit from a well structured scheme, learning new skills and perhaps landing a permanent role, however who is going to fit the bill for all this? The travel, the before and after school care, the additional clothes required to go to work? These costs certainly cannot be meet out of the NewStart allowance: most recipients struggle to keep a phone connected (mandatory for job hunting) or feed the kids. Extra expenses would be an unacceptable, in fact ridiculous, burden. This also assumes that rearing children is not work. News flash, parliamentarians, raising children is BLOODY HARD WORK and I don’t see the point of trying to force a single parent into the workforce when that parent is already trying to do the work of TWO parents as it is.
Supporting a single parent to study while the kids are young would be a far better option, I think.
If the job seeker is working for the dole, how much time do they then have available for actual job seeking and attending interviews? Let’s assume for the moment the job seeker is expected to work half the week and job hunt the other half. He/she is rostered to work Mondays, Wednesdays and four hours on Friday. Late Thursday afternoon an employer calls to schedule an interview for 8:30 am Friday morning. Will the regulations be such that the job seeker is able, without penalty, to give priority to that job interview even though they may not be able to notify the work for the dole organisation of their absence until after the event?
I have concerns about the compliance requirements for all this as well. I know when I was job hunting the paperwork was a pain. I managed it because I am a white-collar worker, but I saw many job seekers legitimately struggle with it. It is fine for bureaucrats to design all these compliance systems, but do they ever consult with the people who actually have to use them? What will the costs of managing compliance be? Will this just be more wasting of the taxpayers’ money implementing a bureaucracy to manage the compliance?
Dole recipients would be asked to take part in civic maintenance, cleaning streets and parks, as occurred in the scheme’s first inception.
Not a lot of training for future employment involved in rubbish collection, I have to say. I would prefer to see the “work” for the dole involving, where suitable, training courses to prepare people for paid employment. Of course, my husband saw many students at TAFE who really didn’t want to be there, some up to their third failed course, all at taxpayers’ expense. As a taxpayer, I’m not happy about that situation either. The supporters talk about teaching people the “soft skills” such as dressing for work and being on time. Fancy dressing required for sweeping streets? Most will be wearing PPE (see discussion below) if what I read is anything to go by.
I remember some years ago watching interviews with people on the dole. The attitudes of some illustrated exactly where the “dole bludger” label came from. I am sure the program must have looked really hard to find the worst examples they possibly could. I am not sure any work for the dole or study for the dole or any other scheme will help those people. The thing to remember here is those people are NOT the majority. The vast majority of people of NewStart DO NOT want to be there. Any scheme should be looking at the BEST ways to get people who don’t want to be on NewStart into real employment and I am not convinced cleaning streets is the best approach.
Do we have jobs available to employ every unemployed person right this minute? If we don’t (and I don’t believe we do) we can hardly blame the unemployed for being unemployed or penalise them for being unemployed for “too long”.
What of occupational health & safety considerations? The costs of work accidents are high. The risks of accidents involving untrained volunteer staff would be high, so there is a need to train the job seekers in safe work procedures (gardening equipment can be dangerous). Who is footing that cost? The not-for-profit organisation or the government? Who is providing the Personal Protective Equipment?
What of the health and fitness criteria? People may be fit and able to do an office job, for example, but they may not be able to undertake physical work.
According to a report in The Age, the Wage Connect scheme (a completely different scheme) has proven quite successful.. Why not expand a successful scheme?
”Nearly half the participants in Wage Connect were in paid employment at the end of the six-month program.”
Am I talking myself out of my own belief in the basic principle? You see, I believe in the basic principle of euthanasia. I do believe an individual should be able to make that decision. Again, the principle and the practicality are two different things. I don’t trust the human race to not take advantage of euthanasia; not yet, at least. Similarly, I am not convinced that work for dole schemes can be implemented to the BENEFIT of the job seeker. That any scheme benefits the job seeker is the only valid test of the worth or otherwise.
I cannot, absolutely cannot, condone a combination of policies that forces single parents of children back into the workforce but at the same time wants to pay such high parental leave to produce more children. Let’s concentrate on educating and employing the children we already have rather than paying people huge amounts to have more. I’ve previously given my opinion of the PPL scheme.
If any work for the dole scheme were implemented, a few considerations are:
- Education to be given preference over work
- Single parents should not be forced back into the work force
- Employment availability must be taken into consideration
- Any scheme MUST NOT cost the job seeker one cent
- Any scheme must not impinge on job hunting efforts
- NewStart must be increased to adequately support job hunting efforts
- Compliance requirements must NOT be burdensome
If Abbott wants to make sure we don’t “rush” amending the constitution to ensure recognition of Aboriginals, may I suggest there is even less reason to rush a work for the dole scheme.
It also seems as if this government has a real habit of just recycling Howard government policies. Tow the boats and work for the dole (didn’t work last time) are two examples. A little short on innovation, perhaps?
Edit: The work for the dole is supposed to focus on young people. Yet it doesn’t address the many young people who don’t qualify for NewStart as it is determined their parents can support them. Is the solution for them nepotism? I thought Abbott just made that a no-no?