The total number of jobs now advertised across Australia is about 133,000. This is the labour market for the 790,000 unemployed looking for work — and it will get a lot worse before it ever gets better.
In the financial year to June, private sector wages rose by just 2.4%, the lowest growth rate in 17 years. With consumer prices rising at 3% over the same period, the decline in real wages will continue as unemployment rises.
This increase seems certain. In the past two years, 20,600 jobs have been lost in the once “booming” mining industry in Western Australia and NSW. The federal Department of Employment estimates that a further 16,000 jobs will be lost over the next four years in the industry.
Continuing job losses across the economy imply a big decrease in consumption which, in turn, will lead to more job losses as demand diminishes in the services sector.
Australia’s official unemployment rate of 6.4% is now the second highest in the English speaking world.
Yet far from offering a solution, the federal government’s proposed policy prescriptions will make matters even worse. Higher university entrance fees and increased interest rates on student loans will decrease demand for tertiary education and add more young people to the dole queues alongside unemployed tutors and ancillary staff.
Changes to family tax benefits will take $1.1 billion from families, with single parents the hardest hit.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott does have a plan for getting people off the dole. Under legislation now before parliament, he intends to contract out Centrelink’s responsibility for dealing with those unemployed who are unable to make an appointment with their so-called job providers to those same job providers.
Under present provisions, the unemployed who miss an appointment are not punished provided they have a “reasonable excuse” for doing so. This will be abolished and those without an “extreme excuse” will be denied their $36 a day benefit until they attend a new appointment, with no guarantee that they will have their benefits back-paid.
An ongoing mental illness will not count as an acceptable excuse and neither will being subject to an assault a week before an appointment.