Social Services Minister Denies Job Shortage
18 November 2016 at 1:07 pm
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter says he does not “statistically” accept the gap between the number of people seeking employment and the number of available jobs.
Speaking at the Australian Council and Social Services (ACOSS) conference on Friday, Porter said people on welfare had an obligation to find work.
He said the government had to make sure it was “not making it too easy to choose welfare over work”.
“Some individuals have a view that a job that is available might not be the right job for them, and I think this is a discussion that we now have to have in the welfare space… there are many, many instances in the welfare system at the moment where people turn down offers of employment,” Porter said.
“There were in excess of 3,000 single incidents in the last year where people on unemployment benefits turn down legitimate offers of employment, and I think we need to have a conversation about when that is and is not appropriate.”
Members of the audience took to Twitter to accuse Porter of failing to acknowledge the lack of available jobs.
— Freedom From Poverty (@EndPovertyInOz) November 17, 2016
We all agree that having a job is most often best outcome for individuals.But's not enough jobs or support to get them #acossconf2016
— Rebecca Vassarotti (@RebeccaVassarot) November 17, 2016
— Anna (@werna_) November 17, 2016
— NTCOSS (@NTCOSS) November 17, 2016
Anglicare’s recent report found a significant job shortage.
In May a total of 732,000 Australians were registered as unemployed, but only an average 168,896 jobs were advertised each month.
There were also 138,044 people registered as disadvantaged job seekers competing for the 21,812 entry-level jobs advertised.
But when confronted on the issue during question time, Porter said he did not accept there was a “dearth of jobs” available.
He said despite the jobs created by the NDIS rollout there was a workforce shortfall in the carer sector.
“It’s not the lack of jobs that’s critical here, but the failure to have systems, incentives, structures and encouragements in place to transition people from states of welfare… into states of employment,” Porter said.
“So I just don’t put my hands up and say ‘there just aren’t enough jobs’, I just don’t think that’s statistically the case.”
He said the government would strengthen its position of “mutual obligation” in regards to welfare – the government must support the unemployed and, in turn, those people must search for work.
“I think that inside a system of mutual obligations, where the central mutual obligation for a job seeker is to look for and attain employment,” he said.
“It is a big concern we have large numbers of instances where people are failing to meet the requirement to look for work or indeed not accepting a legitimately offered job.”
He said there were failures in the system, which the government was working to address with its data-based Priority Investment Approach, including the $96 million Try, Test and Learn fund for the social services sector, academics and other stakeholders to put forward ideas.
“The combination of too few mutual obligations which are too poorly complied with is how people fall into the passive receipt of welfare, become reliant and miss out on the opportunities of a job and improved life chances,” he said.
“Investing $33 million to compile and systemise 15 years of welfare data from across Australia has given us a new data platform and new factual insights into the failures inside the present welfare system and the need to modernise the system to produce better results for capable Australians who have become stuck in often inter-generational cycles of dependence.”
At the ACOSS conference on Thursday opposition leader Bill Shorten criticised the government over the lack of available jobs.
“We’ve only seen half of the projected jobs growth the government promised us at the budget,” Shorten said.
“We’re seeing the growth in part-time jobs. We see 1.8 million of our fellow Australians either unemployed or seeking to get more hours of work than they’re currently getting.
“This government is doing nothing about jobs and that’s why it needs to look at our temporary visa reforms, so that cheap overseas labour is not getting exploited there. This is why they need to drop their $50 billion Donald Trump-style corporate tax cuts and they need to focus on looking after people at the bottom of the heap, rather than just their friends at the top.”
The ACOSS conference, Community: Leading the Big debates, running on 18 and 19 November in Sydney, brings together more than 400 community advocates and workers, researchers, leaders, and people with lived experience of poverty and disadvantage.