Remote Job Scheme ‘doing harm’
More than 200,000 fines were imposed on just 34,000 mainly indigenous jobseekers in the first 15 months of the federal government’s jobs scheme.
The figures prompted experts to say the unpopular Community Development Program is being rejected by indigenous communities and creating resistance to outside intervention.
The latest data, for the September quarter, revealed rates of penalisation were rising, leading to renewed concern over whether CDP is doing more harm than good in places where poverty is entrenched and jobs are few.
Deakin University professor Jon Altman, who has worked on remote indigenous jobs programs for decades, said any gains under CDP were “more than offset by the massive rejection of CDP evidenced in growing rates of no-show no-pay penalties”.
“Many indigenous CDP job seekers are clearly unwilling to work in ‘bullshit jobs’ 25 hours (a week) just for the dole,” he said, calling for immediate action.
However, a spokesman for indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said CDP was “getting jobseekers into work and off welfare”. About 12,400 people had been placed in some form of job, about 4200 of whom were still employed six months later.
The Australian National Audit Office is understood to be reviewing CDP.
According to statistics compiled from government data by researchers at the Australian National University, almost 55,000 CDP jobseekers were penalised in the September quarter, about 5000 more than in the June quarter and more than about 48,000 hit under the urban Jobactive scheme (which is over 20 times larger) during the same period.
About 45,000 of those CDP penalties were for non-attendance. By comparison, Jobactive, with about 760,000 participants, recorded only about 30,000 non-attendance penalties in the September quarter. Each “no- show” penalty amounts to one-tenth of a participant’s fortnightly entitlement.
Senator Scullion’s spokesman said between July and September last year, 94 per cent of serious CDP “failures” were either fully or partly waived.
CDP requires participants to do 25 hours of “work-like activity” a week for dole payments. Work requirements under Jobactive are less onerous.
Many remote jobseekers are angry there are few jobs and few being created where they live.
Jobs Australia chief executive David Thompson, whose group represents non-profit employment service providers, called on Senator Scullion to consult with communities properly and review the scheme. “We think the program would get much better results if it were done ‘with’ indigenous community people, not ‘to’ them. It’s important that there’s a shift away from attendance at activities and to doing what’s needed to help people get jobs and to create jobs where there aren’t many.”
Amos Aikrman, The Australian
28 February 2017