Monday, April 28, 2003

“Our thriving Labour Market”

Researching “Work for the Dole” today, I came across the above website. Even a cursory inspection reveals the site to be quite dated (latest stats: early 2001); I therefore make the suggestion to Tony Abbott that he either takes his nom-de-com seriously, or else abandons his (modest-enough) personal stakeholding and relic from the dotcom glory days.

Error One:

Tony Abbott’s claim:

Unemployed people aged over 35 can now contribute to important environmental projects across Australia through Green Reserve - an extension of the Work for the Dole program.

The first round of Green Reserve projects commenced in April 2001 and targets urban and regional areas of high unemployment, providing older job seekers with the opportunity to participate in activities that will provide great benefits to their local communities while meeting their mutual obligation requirements.



“Green Reserve” projects long since have ceased existence, and seem to have only ever been conjured up as an temporary effort to soft-sell the subsequent extension of Work for the Dole compulsion to 35-49 year olds (Note: for fear of alienating baby boomers, this extension was two tiered – 40-to-49 year olds only have to do half the hours of those younger, despite the middle-aged and older supposedly being the most intractable of all the unemployed).

Don’t worry though, Tony – I won’t seek to have you breached* over this. By lazily preserving your gnat’s-lifespan hype in situ, you’ve shown the rest of us your working process (and work ethics?). You’ve obviously copied something from Labor’s book – they used the same one/two trick in the lead-up to introducing $1,800 HECS loans in 1989. From 1987, the mainstream populace was softened-up with a $250 “administration fee” imposed upfront on all university students.

* “Breaching” is Centrelink speak for cancellation of one’s entire income, for a period of weeks or months.

Error Two:

Tony Abbott’s claim:

There are 56,300 fewer long term unemployed Australians now than there were five years ago. In March 1996 there were 197,600 long term unemployed. Today [2001] there are 141,300.



Tony Abbott is relying on ABS statistics to support his claim. Normally, such reliance (even on two year old stats) could be confidently made, and left at that. However, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) figures, based on the Department of Family and Community Services, “Labour Market and Related Payments: A Monthly Profile” claim the true figure is almost triple – 393,100 in December 2002:

The statistical explanation for this disparity is that the ABS uses a rotating sample labour force survey (conducted monthly), while the ACOSS figures are based on Centrelink benefit claims for Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance – “other” for unemployed people. ACOSS explains its reason for choosing the Centrelink figures thus: “This is a useful indicator of joblessness and hardship because only those people who lack significant wealth or savings receive unemployment benefits”. Conversely, it may be added, that the Centrelink long term unemployed figures – but not the ABS ones – include those who may be working occasionally and earning under the Centrelink payment cut-off amount. The ABS statistics are presumably much lower than the Centrelink ones because the long term unemployed are “laundered” through (very) part time or casual jobs – so getting “off” the ABS definition while remaining firmly “on” Centrelink benefits.

Both sets of figures concur that total unemployment in Australia is ~650,000. You may wonder, in that case, why I am pressing a difference that only concerns a subset – either less than a quarter or more than half – of this figure. I’ll let the answer here again come from the horse’s mouth:

"In putting forward their point of view ACOSS has have seriously overestimated the level of long-term unemployed and seriously understated this Government’s achievements in the area of employment," Mr Brough said.

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