I’m interested in creating employment for long term unemployed people, those people who have been unable to secure or retain paid employment even after completing training/work for the dole schemes. Over the years of running social enterprises I have seen first hand the impact employment makes on people lives, and on the lives of their families. We have also measured this impact via Social Return on Investment and Social Impact Assessment Research. So, it is a worrying trend here in Australia that Long Term Unemployment is on the rise.
More worrying is the Australian Governments’ approach to unemployment and the apparent metaphorical beating them with a stick approach which is a misguided attempt to force people into work. You do not enable people with multiple issues/barriers to finding and sustaining a job by beating them with a stick.
This approach will not work, and it never has. The former Queensland State Government had a good scheme; Skilling Queenslanders for Work (now defunded by the current right wing state government), which took groups of long term unemployed people into short (3 to 4 month) training schemes, and gave them a whole range of skills to find work, including ‘on the job’ work experience. This program may not have been cheap to run up-front but provided long term benefits to the community via sustainable employment and thus positive flow on effects to the economy.
Figures for people unemployed for over 2 years have risen to 79,200 Australians, up 1,000 from last month. Despite a slight fall in the number of people who have been out of work for over a year, after a significant jump last month, figures for people experiencing very long term unemployment continue to rise.
In addition, trend data illustrates that the long term unemployed rate as a percentage of all Australians currently out of work has risen from 21.9% to 22.2%.
SVA Executive Director of Employment, Kevin Robbie commented, ‘evidence shows that getting people out of the cycle of unemployment requires collaboration between government, major employers, and training providers so that training opportunities match the jobs that are actually out there.’
‘Worryingly this week’s Budget will penalise people not in work or training, without allocating funds to ensure that training and job opportunities align’.
SVA is concerned that this will lead to ‘business-as-usual’ where young people are ‘training for trainings sake’ with little hope of a job or income at the end of it, and no financial support to meet their daily needs.
‘There is limited evidence that ‘Work for the Dole’ as it has been run in the past will help people get out of the dole queue – but there are cost effective and proven ways to enable people to find and keep a job they can be proud of.’ “
We need to move away from what Kevin terms as ‘business-as-usual’ in providing training for trainings sake, and move onto collabortaion between the government, large private sector employers, and social enterprises of all levels. As Chair of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) I would argue that the collaboration mentioned by Kevin MUST include the social enterprise sector, from the ground up. It is this part of the employment sector (represented in Qld by QSEC), that has the skills and abilities to employ people with barriers to employment.