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New JobSeeker rules punish both unemployed and employers

Opinion

The Morrison Government’s stricter rules demanding five job searches a week not only affect the unemployed, but employers who will have to deal with millions more applications a month, argues Rachel Siewert.

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From April 1, more than 1.5 million people on Jobseeker and Youth Allowance will have to apply for 15 jobs each month. By early July this number will go up – to 20 jobs per month.

It’s pretty simple math: 1.5 million people by 15 jobs per month means that in the first month of ramping up mutual obligations, the Government expects the public and private sectors to be ready and able to administrate 22.5 million job applications.

That number goes up to 30 million – per month – once people have to apply for 20 jobs.

This is in a job market where, according to the latest ABS data, there are only 175,000 jobs currently available across Australia.

These figures also don’t even take into account the anticipated 250,000 people who are likely to lose their jobs when JobKeeper ends at the same time.

These requirements are not only meaningless when there are just not enough jobs, and depressing and stressful for JobSeekers, they are also a ridiculous level of bureaucracy for the public sector, businesses and small business owners to deal with.

But wait, there’s more! The Government said this week that they will “audit” some of these job applications to “spot people who are submitting non-genuine or deliberately poor-quality applications in order to meet job search targets”.

Yes, I have no doubt people are submitting applications for jobs they are unqualified for and they know they have no hope of getting, because they have to in order to not get suspended from their payment and there aren’t enough jobs there to apply for. This would make a very good script for an episode of Yes Minister.

Maybe the Government is aiming to make up the difference in the job market with auditors in their own Department.

How are they going to get access to the applications in the first place? What is the standard for a genuine application and what counts as a “deliberately poor-quality job application”, anyway?

We haven’t seen how these standards are going to be measured and enforced. This is not about actual outcomes; it’s just another avenue to brow-beat people on income support.

Is it even worth asking whether the Government consulted with the business community on how they will handle a sudden influx of millions of job applications each month?

There is no limit to this Government’s laundry list of ways to make people on income support lives a living hell. From the same Government who brought us robodebt and the demerit points system that leaves people in constant fear of losing their income support, they bring “DobSeeker” – a new hotline for employers to dob in people who apparently refuse to take a job they’ve been offered.

Not only has this the potential to abuses of power that will hurt the most vulnerable in our community, there is actually no evidence to support the anecdotal claims of so-called “job-snobs” and people refusing to take work.

The Prime Minister and others in Government have so much to say about people on income support, but not a lot to say about job providers and exploitative employers. While there is apparently no stigma attached to corporations increasing their profits and paying dividends through taking advantage of the JobKeeper scheme.

The Job Provider system is already rife with bullying, harassment, of people being ignored or treated very poorly by their job providers and now the Government is empowering employers with the means to further intimidate and bully job seekers.

The Senate inquiry into Jobactive found that the system was not fit-for-purpose – including that providers are required to focus on enforcing compliance rather than on assisting people into fulfilling employment pathways.

I have been overwhelmed with complaints about employment programs and providers who are being paid a lot of money to help people to find work.

The formal complaints process for the Jobactive system is so poor, and opaque, the only way that most people can get an outcome is by going to a Member of Parliament’s office.

For many years my office has done what it can to help people who have been bullied, harassed, ignored or treated very poorly by their providers. This has only increased since March last year.

The presumption of innocence is a very specific term that applies to the legal sector but which has been thrown around a lot recently. There is no due process or presumption of innocence when it comes to people on income support.

Income support is where vulnerable people seem to be presumed guilty for even accessing income support, where the Government can spend millions pursuing an illegal robodebt scheme with next to no consequences and where job providers can bully and harass vulnerable people whilst keeping their huge contracts.

JobSeekers are punished while providers and Ministers are let off the hook.

Rachel Siewert is a Greens senator

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