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COVID-19 creates new barriers for disadvantaged jobseekers

14 October 2020 at 8:00 am
Luke Michael
New analysis shows there are 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job in Australia                                             

Luke Michael | 14 October 2020 at 8:00 am


COVID-19 creates new barriers for disadvantaged jobseekers
14 October 2020 at 8:00 am

New analysis shows there are 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job in Australia                                             

The federal government’s privatised employment services program is failing vulnerable jobseekers, according to a new report which shows the devastating impact of coronavirus on Australia’s unemployment crisis.

Anglicare Australia has released its latest Jobs Availability Snapshot, which examines how many entry-level jobs are available for jobseekers with barriers to work – such as people with disability, those in remote areas, and people who didn’t finish year 12. 

The report found that for every entry-level job there would be eight disadvantaged jobseekers competing against each other. In some parts of the country that number was as high as 20, without including other jobseekers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the nation’s unemployment crisis, with the number of unemployed people in May this year hitting 923,000, compared with 704,700 in May 2019.

The total number of people in the government’s privatised employment services program Jobactive has also ballooned out from 619,956 last year to 1,442,760. 

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers told Pro Bono News that rising unemployment due to coronavirus meant vulnerable jobseekers were now competing for entry-level jobs with people with more skills and experience. 

As a result, there were now 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job across the country.

“What this means for [vulnerable] people is that they’re competing for jobs even more than before,” Chambers said.

“And there are now more disadvantaged jobseekers competing for jobs in every single jurisdiction.”

Chambers said while the government’s coronavirus support schemes were helpful, they were being “pulled back too soon”.  

“This report very clearly shows the withdrawal of support is not well timed and in-step [with the unemployment situation],” she said.

Renewed calls to abolish Jobactive 

Anglicare believes abolishing Jobactive is necessary to turn the tide on unemployment.

The program – which requires welfare recipients to attend meetings with private job service providers – was lambasted by a Senate committee last year for being ineffective and a barrier to work.

A 2018 survey from the Australian Council of Social Service also found only 8 per cent of Jobactive participants were satisfied with the program.

Anglicare’s report said Jobactive was “entirely unfit for purpose” and had failed vulnerable jobseekers for years.

“Faced with many more thousands of Australians out of work, and its consistent failure to help the people who need it the most, it is time to abolish Jobactive,” the report said.

“The bulk of its funding should be redirected to job creation and training in known areas of demand, and to provide tailored support for people who have been failed for many years by the system.”

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) has been a long-time critic of Jobactive and has echoed Anglicare’s call to abolish the system. 

AUWU spokesperson Kristin O’Connell said people in Stream C of the Jobactive system – who need the most support to find and keep work – were directly harmed by the program. 

“Stream C [participants] aren’t the only ones trying to get these jobs – they are in competition with millions of unemployed people who have higher qualifications, face few barriers to work and are desperate to take any job at all,” O’Connell said.

“For many, their job search feels like a hopeless and fruitless exercise – Stream C participants know they have almost no chance of getting these jobs.”

Canberra resident Rosa* is in her early 60s and speaks English as a second language. 

Out of work for three years after decades of experience in hospitality, she said she has not been helped by Jobactive at all. 

“At my very first interview with my Jobactive provider, I was told that I am not [likely] to find a job at my age. Since then, they haven’t even been pretending to help me,” Rosa said. 

She said she was dreading the next few months because the coronavirus supplement for the JobSeeker payment is being cut at the end of the year.

Rosa also faces the return of mutual obligations – such as participating in appointments with an employment service provider and agreeing to a job plan.

“I’ll have to go back onto $40 a day, I’ll have to give up caring for my grandchildren when all the rules come back – even though looking after the kids is the most useful thing I could be doing,” she said.

“None of the things I have to do will help me get a job. But all of it makes life harder.”

*Not her real name

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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