The reality is that, like all government programs, it was set up to further reduce the cost of administering it and, by proxy, the number of providers. It also serves as a vehicle for the Minister of the day to prove that the government are “cracking down” on welfare cheats via Work for the Dole. Not much else changes – the job outcomes stay roughly the same as they have since the days of the CES, job seekers continue to either stay unemployed or flit from temporary, wage-subsidised job to temporary wage-subsidised job then back to unemployed. The “hard basket” clients just move from one provider to the next with maybe a half stint on Work for the Dole before being placed on a Disability Support Pension so that the unemployment rate “improves”. This is not a political statement, it’s just fact. Labor or Liberal, they are all the same when it comes to having some PR for the press.
So, by now you will have gathered that we are a bit cynical about the whole employment services deal. Correct you are. But that’s not our biggest problem with the system. It’s the fact that NOTHING is ever done about the never-ending cycles of unemployment or disadvantage that are seemingly locked into the whole jobactive debacle.
Firstly, there is the farce that is Work for the Dole, badly disguised as a “work experience”, the reality being that painting rocks in the church yard will hardly set you up for a proper job. If the government had any real gonads, they would instigate a system that forced winners of government contracts to train and employ a quota of people from the ranks of the unemployed. That would solve a number of problems not the least being lost productivity caused by the transition of employed workers from one job to a more lucrative one (like a government contract).
Secondly, the jobactive system forces providers to get outcomes or not get paid so it encourages a “dog-eat-dog” competitive environment. Hey, competition is fair, isn’t that what we want? Again, the reality is that it just encourages short-term, non-permanent jobs and no genuine training or work skills for those that are churned. Worse still, the largest of providers will use their size to give employers bigger wage subsidies and corner the market, further reducing real competition.
But, in the famous words of Jeremy Clarkson, there is an even bigger problem. Those that need help the most are the most disadvantaged by this system – the newly arrived migrants and refugees being resettled in Australia are being doomed to this cycle as well without getting the chance to improve their English language skills, education, or train for jobs that offer higher incomes. It means that it is tougher for them to integrate and break out of the welfare cycle. These folk are sent to jobactive providers who send them to the most menial jobs (like working on the chicken farms for example) requiring no skills, little training, low income and they can get by with the most basic of English skills. Their English does not improve because they are working mostly with other migrants and do not get to practice it so they end up living in “enclaves” that us good old Aussies love to moan about – like it’s their choice. Anybody getting this?
Hey, don’t get us wrong, we are not blaming the jobactive providers. They are only doing what they have been directed or even forced to do. If they do not get outcomes, they go broke. What we are saying is that it is well beyond time that the system had a sensible overhaul, one that gives a fair go for all, one that actually does something to turn around the cycle of unemployment, one that gives new Australians a chance to be what we all take for granted, one that does something to reduce the national disgrace of one in five young people out of work (almost one in two if you are a young African Australian) and one that addresses the structural problems with employment in this country.