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Jobactive and job service providers are unfit for purpose

  • 03 September 2020
There is a sense of liminality pushing down on the shoulders of many Australians regarding their financial security. It is like waiting in a dark room, no windows, no doors, no way of telling the time or contacting the outside world. You want to simultaneously sit in the middle of the room and wait, but also scream and bang on the walls — you know neither will help.

The Government’s — now obselete — staged rollback of the JobKeeper payment and discussion of other associated stimulus plans has dominated the media, eclipsing the still precarious fates of the 1 million Australians reported to be unemployed. Beyond the announcement of the corona supplement falling from $550 to $250 a fortnight in September, and the reintroduction of asset testing, there has been little in the way of a roadmap for our nation’s unemployed in a landscape where job seekers outnumber jobs 13:1. This bumbling gap is most obvious in the continual delay in reintroducing mutual obligations (MOs), as its unclear messaging, and generally sporadic communication has left many recipients unsure of their future. 

For those fortunate enough to have never encountered them — mutual obligations are a series of tasks one is expected to complete while on the Jobseeker payment. These tasks are to be administered by and reported to your assigned Job Services Provider (JSP) and may vary depending on an individual’s circumstance or stream. Often these involve applying for a set amount of jobs a month, attending appointments, and when required, classes and courses in the hope that these activities will either increase your general employability or directly land you a job.But therein lies the issue — applying for 20 jobs a month does nothing when there are no jobs. Being the most qualified candidate means nothing if the pool is overflowing. The current Jobactive scheme in its existing state is rife with flaws, which will only be exacerbated in the coming months as it is ill-prepared to face the influx of job seekers soon to be funnelled into its program.

The suspension of MOs in the first place may be seen as an admission that they’re not required as part of an employment services system. Despite ‘fears’ that a liveable welfare payment without these conditions will discourage job searches, employers are still being inundated with applications.

'The report ultimately found that the current Jobactive program was failing multiple constituent groups such as