Government tackles unemployment with wage subsidies for employers


By Dominique Wiehahnm, Jin Kok

The Budget proposes CentreLink payment penalties to get unemployed back into work. Photo: Amanda Slater / Flickr

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has announced $233 million in the Federal Budget to push long-term unemployed people back into jobs.

The Government will offer 35,000 wage subsidies to employers taking on workers who have been unemployed for two years or more.

Under the new plan, job-seekers will now have to complete two days of work experience a week for a period of 11 months, instead of six months.

National Employment Services Association CEO Sally Sinclair says the Budget is taking a step in the right direction.

“I think that the measures that the Government have announced will certainly go some way to contributing to people having the opportunities to reconnect with the labour market,” she said.

Queensland Council of Social Service President Karyn Walsh says she supports the strategy of getting people into work and providing more holistic responses to them.

“Our concern is the penalties that are being proposed with Centrelink,” she said.

She says if an unemployed person misses a day of work experience, they will lose a day of welfare payment under the new initiative.

“We’re losing income support as a safety net for people and it‘s being used to look at their behaviour and their compliance with training and work,” she said.

“I think Australia needs a good safety net.”

Director of Advocacy and Partnerships for Anglicare Sydney Sue King says payment penalties assume those who are unemployed chose to be.

“A lot of the people coming through our doors, the fact that they might not be able to keep their house this winter, the fact that they might be going hungry in order for their kids not go hungry, that is not a lifestyle choice,” she said.

University of Newcastle economics expert William Mitchell says subsidising jobs was the wrong approach.

“I definitely think the Government should have created the jobs and created them in such a way that they were tailored to specific disadvantages,” he said.