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A recent report eviscerated the jobseeker service, pegging it as little more than a service to protect Centrelink. Lasting work has little to do with it.
A report was released in mid-September that surveyed users of the jobactive service. It wasn’t glowing. The people surveyed (people seeking work through the service to get out of unemployment), were frustrated with the service, which had done little to alleviate their situation.
“I think it’s impossible to think of a positive outlook for this system,” Suzie from Perth said in July, 2018. “You have to brace yourself because you will be made to feel that being unemployed is your fault.”
No one who is actively seeking work should be made to feel this way, especially from the people at the service that is designed to help people find a job. It should be of note that this report was released in 2018, the 20-year anniversary of Australia introducing the “world’s first fully privatised employment services system”.
What I noted when I checked out the jobactive website was that it was nothing more than Monster.com or Indeed or CareerOne or any of the other job websites, except that jobactive seems to work as an aggregator for jobs from all of these different sites.
But then again, that’s only the most basic of its functions. There’s obviously more to it than that.
On the surface, it seems like a good program. It promises to work with job seekers to help write résumés and become job ready, with “individualised support” for each member. The issue is this doesn’t seem to be the case. Nor does it appear that the program has changed with the times.
“Employment services were first conceived in an era when Australia consistently averaged a two per cent unemployment rate and were therefore premised on the assumption that there were enough jobs for all who wanted to work. The abandonment of a full employment policy in the mid-1970s changed this context. The ratio of “job seeker” to job vacancy has since increased to the point where there are now eight job seekers for every available job, but employment services have not responded accordingly.”
You might realise that this is a problem. If the system hasn’t changed since the 1970s, despite the fact that the number of jobs and job seekers has changed, then what, exactly, is it doing for people?
“They’re a compliance agency for Centrelink, not an employment service,” said Paul from Sydney.
This also begs the question: what is the provider being paid to do?
Indeed. If jobseekers are finding their own jobs, which is the exactly the job of the service, and they don’t keep records of attendance or activities, then what exactly are they doing? They also were not providing “proof” that they were helping anyone. A common threat of complaint was that the service required a lot of the jobseekers, but provided nothing in return.
“Can I ask you what you mean by ‘service’?” Archie from Sydney writes. “I’m not joking. They call you in for an appointment, they ask you what you’re up to, see if you’ve been meeting your obligations, and that’s it, you go away. Do you call that service?”
If the system hasn’t changed since the 1970s, despite the fact that the number of jobs and job seekers has changed, then what, exactly, is it doing for people?
To put it simply, these people feel cheated – and they should. They are being cheated. This system, designed to benefit the prospective employers more than it is the unemployed jobseekers, is not really a job agency. They want to appear like a recruitment agency, but they’re a facsimile of one.
“They don’t have any jobs on their books,” Roger from Melbourne said.
This compounds further when the participants relate that they were encouraged to apply for inappropriate or unsuitable jobs. They were told to apply to any and all jobs because otherwise “you won’t get your 10 jobs a fortnight”. In fact, 61% of callers to the Australian Unemployed Workers Union “indicated that their employment services provider had failed to help them canvass the local labour market”.
“I’ve applied for 150 jobs and I have had two interviews,” Paul from Perth relayed.
And of course, Work for the Dole is mentioned.
The Work for the Dole system does not get people off welfare and into permanent work. In fact, the report directly acknowledges the Australian Parliament House website which says the program is “not…particularly effective” and that “the work experience gained by participants is not linked to paid work or relevant accredited training”. The program is mainly used for “job seeker compliance” and a sense that participants are “giving back to the community”.
Wow. Amazing self-own on a government website. At least it’s undergoing some “major reform”, so we’ll have to wait and see if that has helped at all.
But, also, there’s this:
“In a one year period between 2014-15 and 2015-16, reported injuries at Work for the Dole sites increased from 92 to 500.”
Per the report, this was mostly due to minimum safety requirements not being met at job sites.
“In April 2016, 18-year-old Josh Park Fing died at his Work for the Dole site in Toowoomba. It was later revealed that prior to his death Josh had unsuccessfully tried to lodge a complaint about a back injury he had already suffered at his site.”
It goes on and on, but the point is this: on paper, the program is a fantastic idea. It should not be scrapped. In fact, the report suggests pragmatic solutions to fixing it. However, if it remains as it is, it will continue to be a liability to job seekers more than it is an aid.
It’s a grim indictment of the system in Australia that it was allowed to go on like this, costing taxpayers and jobseekers time and money, when it could have been functioning to help those who need it most.