Moreland council has become one of the first organisations to vote against participating in the federal Work for the Dole scheme. The federal government scheme was expanded in July to incorporate jobseekers aged under 50 who have been receiving welfare payments for more than six months.
Sue Bolton, a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland council moved a motion on October 7 against council participating in the Work for the Dole scheme.
Labor Mayor Meghan Hopper and Moreland CEO Nerina di Lorenzo initially attempt to rule that the motion could not be debated because it related to “staffing”. The Local Government Act prohibits councillors from voting on operational matters.
Bolton argued that there is no way that Work for the Dole can be considered “staffing” unless the council was planning to replace permanent jobs at full pay with Work for the Dole participants on Newstart Allowance.
A majority of councillors voted to allow the motion to be debated.
In the end, the motion was passed, with only Hopper, Labor right councillor Lambros Tapinos, Liberal Party councillor Rob Thompson and Democratic Labor Party-aligned independent John Kavanagh voting against.
Bolton argued that Work for the Dole is akin to indentured labour because participants are forced to work in return for token pay. She said Work for the Dole represents a threat to the jobs of people working in local government and the community sector, as they could be replaced with unpaid labourers.
Several studies, including some commissioned by the federal government, have shown that Work for the Dole does not assist the long-term unemployed in getting jobs.
University of Melbourne researchers Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng have shown that there are “quite large significant adverse effects of participation in Work for the Dole” for job seekers. For example, they found that people who were required to do Work for the Dole were much less likely to find work than job seekers who did not participate.
Department of Employment data shows that in 2013, only 19.8% of Work for the Dole participants found full-time or part-time job within three months of finishing the scheme.
Being forced into Work for the Dole to keep your Centrelink payment makes life even harder for people. It takes up time that could be better spent studying, training or looking for paid work. Solutions to unemployment require an acknowledgement of the lack of jobs that exist.
According to ABS data, in September 2014 there were 156,000 job vacancies in Australia. At the same time, there were 750,000 people out of work. If you factor in the high number of under-employed, which in July 2014 was estimated to be 920,000, there are roughly 10 job seekers competing for every job vacancy in Australia.
We need real job creation, instead of expensive, failed approaches that blame job seekers for things outside their control.