Government Suspends Payments for 1300 Young Job Seekers Not in PaTH Program
6 September 2017 at 5:16 pm
Young unemployed people have had their welfare benefits suspended, for failing to take part in the federal government’s controversial PaTH internship program.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed 1,300 young people were denied their unemployment benefits for not taking part in the scheme’s employability skills training.
The government said these benefits would not be reinstated until the job seeker agreed to engage with the employment scheme.
The PaTH program is the government’s new approach to youth employment. It involves a prepare, trial and hire stage in which “young people [are supported] to gain the skills and work experience they need to get and keep a job.”
The program also supports employers to host internship placements, and provides them with financial incentives to take on young people.
Critics, including the Labor Party and the unions, have said the scheme is exploitative for paying interns as little as $4 an hour, but the government has maintained it is a useful approach to finding young people long-term employment.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the suspension of young people’s payments demonstrated the government’s “cruel and paternalistic approach to the social safety net”.
“PaTH was pitched as this amazing voluntary measure that would help young people get jobs and instead 1,300 young people have had their payments suspended, which could result in homelessness and hunger,” Siewert said.
“We’ve also seen exploitation, with interns already working well beyond the 50 hour a fortnight limit in exchange for gift vouchers.
“Overseas comparable measures have resulted in systemic exploitation and churn, I have huge concerns about this becoming the norm in Australia.
“Young people are being exploited, being put into $4 an hour internships, but the fact is there are simply not enough jobs. Job creation must be the focus on the government rather than an internship program that punishes and puts young people at risk of being taken advantage of.”
But Cash defended the program’s effectiveness and the government’s suspension of payments.
A spokesperson for the minister told Pro Bono News: “Youth Jobs PaTH is focused on ensuring that those looking for work have the experience and skills they need to secure a job. Despite the program being in its infancy, the evidence to date demonstrates the Youth Jobs PaTH model is working.
“Australians rightly expect those in receipt of welfare undertake pre-employment skills training so they obtain the necessary skills to get a job. This is a crucial element of their mutual obligation requirements.
“The government’s welfare compliance reforms will impose appropriate consequences on those who deliberately shirk their mutual obligations. These reforms will ensure those looking for work cannot impede their own pathway into a job by actively refusing to gain the skills they require.”
Even though the program cost $750 million to implement, it was revealed last month that only 200 young people had found employment from 1,015 internships, in the first four months of the scheme.
This is despite Cash’s stated aim to create up to 30,000 internships a year over the next four years.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus said the PaTH scheme needed to be scrapped.
“This program is gifting young people to businesses, destroying jobs and not giving a single young person a useful skill or recognised qualification,” McManus said.
“This government has already slashed more than a $1 billion from apprenticeships alone since taking office, on top of savage cuts to cadetships, traineeships, TAFE and universities, and now, with youth unemployment at crisis levels, it is destroying entry-level jobs.
“Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Cash are selling young people’s futures out from under them to shore up the votes of the business community.”