A Jobs Plan that retains people’s dignity is key to solving poverty
As unemployment reaches a 12-year high, the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has today urged the government to cut poverty, and address the structural drivers of unemployment, rather than cutting social spending or micro-managing people’s lives. The Society makes these calls in response to the release of the interim report into welfare commissioned by Government, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes, submissions to which are due on August 8.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon called for:
- A Jobs Plan for Australia
“We need a Jobs Plan, not a bashing-the-unemployed plan. Behavioural approaches will not solve structural problems. We agree with the Report that reshaping the way we think about work and employment in Australia to make it more inclusive is the responsibility of all of us – including government, business, communities, and individuals. But the enormity of the challenge is such that government must step in and do what the labour market cannot. There are around 1.5 million unemployed and underemployed people competing for 150,000 job vacancies. Neither sticks nor carrots will fix this. Neither Work-for-the-Dole nor absurd levels of compliance and cruelty will address labour market conditions, especially in areas of high unemployment.
- Increased and appropriately indexed payment rates
“People need income adequacy, not forced income management; dignity, not demonisation. Australia already spends comparatively little on welfare by international standards, and our taxation is low. We must increase income support payments and index them to wages so that people are not forced to live below the poverty line. The current level of Newstart is so low that it has actually become an obstacle to employment participation.
“The aim of the system must be primarily to alleviate poverty and ensure that no one is denied the essentials of life. The aim should not be humiliation, nor control. We reject the interim report’s suggestions of expanding compulsory income management and Work-for-the-Dole. These are tired old approaches that are, at best, ideological distractions and, at worst, means of humiliation and control, punishing people who can’t find work,” Dr Falzon said.
National President, Anthony Thornton, said the St Vincent de Paul Society remains deeply concerned by many of the proposed Budget measures that have been designed to ramp up inequality and punish the poor.
“Budget measures, such as denying income support to people aged under 30 for six months in every year and the changes to the higher education system, will hit the poor far harder than the rich, thus continuing to lock them out of the employment market,” Mr Thornton said.