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Gillard’s welfare policies more rubbery than her figures

While the Prime Minister continues to imply that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians on unemployment benefits who are unwilling to work, the Australian Greens say this is not the case, with the focus on tough talk and misleading figures coming at the expense of effective action.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens Community Services spokesperson says the Government needs to focus on delivering effective employment support to job seekers, rather than using them as an easy target for criticism.

“In the current economic climate, with growing demand for skilled workers in sections of the labour market expected for some time to come, now is an excellent opportunity to make real progress on tackling long-term unemployment. Let’s not squander it,” Senator Siewert said today.

“Australia needs to have a sensible discussion about employment assistance and income support policy. But to do so, we need to put aside the rhetoric and misinformation and focus on the evidence of who is unemployed, what barriers they face to moving into employment, and what assistance is needed to make an effective transition to work.

“The debate continues to ignore the fact that a significant proportion of the long-term unemployed are over the age of 46 and have less than year 12 educations.

“Rather than talk of crackdowns and harsher measures in administering payments, we need to put more resources into effective transition strategies.

“Many employers are wary of the risks of taking on older workers, particularly when they have been out of work for an extended period. A targeted transition support strategy might include a component of paid work experience, on-the-job training, employer support or ongoing case management.

“Employment assistance policy needs to focus on the needs of the labour market and the barriers faced by the unemployed.

“It is important to recognise that the end result of successive ‘welfare to work’ policies is that have forced single parents and disability support pensioners onto Newstart Allowance. This means that the profile of those on unemployment benefits now looks increasingly similar to the pension population – including many people with a partial capacity to work, who have caring or parenting responsibilities to juggle and face significant work-place barriers.

“The upcoming federal budget gives the Government an opportunity to get to grips with long-term unemployment. To do so it needs to be putting resources into what works, not wasting them on more of the same administrative compliance measures that have already proved ineffective,” concluded Senator Siewert.

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