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Welfare concerns: fears budget plan is too tough

Academic and employment service provider give their views on 'work-for-the-dole' scheme.

LAURA HURLEY August 6, 2014 3:13am

The Federal Government’s proposed work-for-the-dole scheme has raised concerns it might be too extreme in rural areas.

The scheme is part of a federal shake-up of the welfare system to end what has been labelled by Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey as ‘‘the age of entitlement’’.

Under the scheme, job seekers could be expected to apply for up to 40 jobs a month to receive unemployment benefits if they are are not undertaking skills-based learning, and would ‘work-for-the-dole’ for 25 hours a week.

The unemployed and those under 30 would have to job hunt for six months before they became eligible for welfare benefits.

Many are questioning whether 40 job applications a month is a realistic expectation of job seekers in regional areas, where the labour market is smaller.

University of Melbourne professor of economics Jeff Borland conducted research on the effectiveness of the work-for-the-dole scheme under the Howard Government in 2004.

Prof Borland said there was no evidence work-for-the-dole improved people’s employability in its first incarnation.

‘‘It’s impossible to believe work-for-the-dole would have a significant impact on people’s employability,’’ he said.

‘‘Getting the long-term unemployed back into the workforce depends on jobs growth and creation. Schemes that work really need to address skills deficiencies.’’

Prof Borland said work-for-the-dole would be ‘‘a much bigger problem in small communities’’.

‘‘What is needed is choosing a number that gives job seekers a realistic chance at finding a position,’’ he said.

‘‘The cost of that policy will be highest for employers in areas where there will be a lot more applications.’’’

Employment service provider Sureway’s chief executive David Galloway said it was important to remember the details of the work-for-the-dole scheme were still in a period of consultation.

‘‘It’s still in the draft stage and everything they’ve got is just proposed,’’ Mr Galloway said.

He acknowledged it could be more difficult to find work in regional locations, where employment opportunities were fewer and more static.

‘‘In regional areas, in areas like Cobram, it can be particularly difficult to find work. For job seeking, many would have to relocate.’’

Mr Galloway was not concerned about the increased rate of job applications.

‘‘Ideally, if we as an employment service provider can handle it well, and work with these businesses during the hiring process, they shouldn’t be affected.’’

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