Reduce long-term unemployment now!

Article published 9 September 2022

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SOMETHING is clearly not working when employers are crying out for workers but 760,000 people are still overlooked and locked out of the paid workforce, having to rely on income support for more than a year.

The reason for that high number is simple. Forty per cent have a disability but don’t meet the draconian criteria for the Disability Support Pension. Forty-seven per cent are over 45 and have to battle age discrimination in their search for a job. Thirteen per cent are First Nations people, who face racial discrimination and twelve per cent are sole parents, mainly women, often unable to work or work the hours employers require.

These are all groups that have been left behind in the labour market. Despite labour shortages they are still missing out on the opportunities presented by low unemployment. Amidst a cost-of-living crisis, $46 a day is not enough for people long term unemployed to afford the transport costs to get to an interview, to get a haircut or suitable clothing.

There must be a serious conversation about lifting income supports to $70 a day, so that our social security system is no longer a barrier to workforce participation.

We need an employment services system that works for people who are unemployed and employers, not the punitive, tick-a-box compliance machine we have now.”

The Government should replace ‘keep busy’ programs that don’t work, like Work for the Dole and Employability Skills Training, with a flexible Jobs and Training Offer for people unemployed long-term, consisting of a genuinely negotiated menu of options to help overcome barriers to employment, including:

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is calling for a program that includes:

  • placement in suitable paid employment (with mentoring and training as needed).
  • subsidised job trials in regular employment, with normal rates of pay and industrial protections.
  • ‘demand-led’ programs which connect people with employers with specific workforce needs (such as aged care workers) and work backwards from there to train, prepare and trial them for those jobs.
  • career guidance, vocational training, or foundation skills training
  • assistance with health and social barriers to employment.

To make this work from the ground up, the Government should work with employers, unions, employment services, public and community training providers to establish local employment development networks that connect the right people to the right jobs and training opportunities.

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