Abetz admits unrealistic job-search target might encourage unrealistic reporting

Employment Minister Eric Abetz has admitted there’s a risk that jobseekers might engage in “box-ticking” when asked to apply for 40 jobs a month.

“Risk”? It’s a certainty. If there simply aren’t ten jobs a week to apply for, people will simply lie and/or make stuff up to secure their dole – just as many of my generation did to fill up the almost-as-ludicrous “dole diary” back in the 90s. What, in all seriousness, is a jobseeker meant to do if they live in an area that’s seen employment flatline or even decrease since they’ve been out of work? If they want to keep their unemployment benefit (or qualify for it in six months’ time), they will fulfill that 40 applications requirement any way they can and if that means using slightly relaxed ethics, that’s what they’ll do.

Here’s a thing that may have escaped the attention of our erstwhile Employment Minister: unemployed people, for the most part, don’t like being unemployed. The pay sucks, the admin you have to go through to get it is exasperating and being dependent on the state for any great length of time is demoralising – even when representatives of said state aren’t painting you as some bludger who roasts a breakfast bud at 2pm then plays video games all day. Asking people to apply for ten jobs a week is essentially demanding that they apply for jobs that are completely inappropriate for them (or that simply don’t exist, requiring fabrication) or risk losing whatever meagre benefit the government will begrudge them. And that’s a separate matter entirely from having to spend six months essentially living in poverty before they even qualify for the benefit.

In some areas, such as our cities, applying for ten jobs a week will be easy, simply by virtue of there being more employers than elsewhere. Whether you’re qualified for half of them, however, is another story – and by that I mean that you’re neither underqualified or overqualified; after all, any pipefitter or engineering lecturer with two hands could pick fruit. Of course, whether you even want the jobs you’re applying for is another story again, but don’t let’s apply only for jobs that fit on our career paths, fit our skillsets or physical ability or mental aptitudes or just sound half-decent, lest we be labelled “job snobs”. Because I’m sure, like any one of his colleagues, if Mr Abetz found himself unemployed he’d go straight down to the labour exchange in his crumpled old dungarees, roll thin cigarettes from the last of his stale ‘bacca and wait for an empty flatbed truck to come along and whisk him and nine other stout fellows down to the quarry to break rocks just so he could feed his family…right?

By imposing such an unreasonable application target, Abetz and his government aren’t just increasing the risk of “box ticking”, they are absolutely guaranteeing that many jobseekers in economically depressed areas will apply for jobs they simply are not qualified for, or are too qualified for, or that they have invented, listing mates’ names and numbers as contacts at fabricated companies like, oh I don’t know, Vandelay Industries. Not only will this make a mockery of the whole operation (which is already being widely mocked), it will unnecessarily make many peoples’ lives that much harder – and I don’t just mean jobseekers.

What does it actually take to apply for a job anyway? On paper, not much for the jobseeker – a few minutes emailing an application letter and resume or filling in an online application form or perhaps just a simple phone call. Two of those a day and you’re sorted – sure, as a lifelong office administrator, fruit picker or draftsman you might have Buckley’s of getting an interview for the position of Chief Brain Science Researcher at Very Important University, but that’s not the point is it? The government is essentially forcing you to apply for jobs with the threat of abject poverty. But what of those on the receiving end? How many completely bogus applications are employers going to have to sort through to get to the real ones? How much time will be wasted and how greatly will suffer our precious productivity? |

And what of Centrelink staff at the other end of the process – will they be expected to call employers and verify every single application before approving someone’s benefit? I know for a fact that they didn’t when I was unemployed and trying to both find a job and fulfill the requirements of the much-loathed “dole diary”. Now that the requirements will be about double that infernal diary, does anyone seriously expect Centerlink staff, already famous for their underfunding and overwork, to be making 40 phone calls or sending 40 emails with regard to every single unemployed person on their caseload? I suspect that if they are, they’ll end up ticking boxes just as their charges do – after all, there’s no way their bosses are going to check their work.

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2 thoughts on “Abetz admits unrealistic job-search target might encourage unrealistic reporting

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