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'Barriers to Employment' Report

20 January 2003 at 12:01 pm
Staff Reporter
A report launched in Melbourne last week says it identifies a serious threat to communities of disadvantaged families who could become permanently socially excluded from society by being left outside the competitive job market.

Staff Reporter | 20 January 2003 at 12:01 pm


'Barriers to Employment' Report
20 January 2003 at 12:01 pm

A report launched in Melbourne last week says it identifies a serious threat to communities of disadvantaged families who could become permanently socially excluded from society by being left outside the competitive job market.

Published by the Jesuit policy unit, The Ignatius Centre, in Richmond, the research report is called “Barriers to Employment”.

Jesuit Policy Director, Father Peter Norden, believes that one of the most confronting findings of this investigation into three public housing estates in the City of Yarra was that the overwhelming majority of those interviewed aspired to full-time work and financial independence.

Fr. Norden says this finding confronts the general prejudicial and discriminatory attitude of the wider community that the high levels of unemployment and welfare dependency often found in public housing estates result from the lack of ambition and enterprising behaviour.

Jesuit researcher, David Holdcroft, drawing on his extensive experience in the housing and homelessness field, conducted in-depth interviews with a sample of long-term unemployed residents of the Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond estates, examining what factors prevented them from participating more fully in the job market.

Unemployment rates, conservatively measured by official statistics, for the three estates are: Fitzroy: 24.3%; Collingwood: 25.5%, Richmond: 20.5%. This compared to the overall unemployment rate in the City of Yarra of 10%, and a national unemployment rate of close to 6%.

David Holdcroft concluded that these are communities with a very high degree of social disadvantage and so special measures are urgently needed to ensure that the young people growing up in these estates have the opportunity of participating in mainstream society, and of escaping that sense of social exclusion which is the underlying cause of much social conflict and violence in our community.

Holdcroft says there is a great risk that in areas of high unemployment, we are creating areas of social marginalisation where children grow up never having known or seen a parent go to work.

He says as well as being denied access to the many things that money brings, these children do not know what it is like to trust society to be a place where they can feel secure. They are truly a forgotten generation. And present government policies are at least partly to blame.

Some of these barriers identified through the research investigation were:
· Inadequacy of English language skills
· Lack of specific education directed towards job vacancies
· Discrimination on the basis of race or place of residence
· Economic disincentives to move from social security benefits
· Lack of tax incentives to move from casual/informal job network
· Deep sense of social isolation from long-term unemployment
· Lack of support during the stressful return to work period

Fr. Norden says these are very important findings with implications for the emerging Federal Government’s policy for the growing number of long term (12 months) and very long term (24 months) unemployed people in Australia.

He says while the overall percentage of unemployment in Australia is stable, there are many similar communities around Australia with very high levels of long term unemployment.

He says these are the communities, in both urban centres like Sydney and Melbourne, and rural communities, that without intensive intervention will continue to become breeding grounds for major social problems of concern to the whole Australian community such as substance misuse, youth suicide, child abuse or neglect and criminal behaviour.

The Jesuit research report recommends a more substantial program of intervening to build resources for these communities.

Fr Norden says without addressing these communities of entrenched social disadvantage, there will never be enough police, mental health workers and prison cells to deal with the consequences in the future.

If you would like an electronic version of the report please send an email to

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