Tuesday, March 09, 2004

State of the Job Network

Recent weeks have seen more tales of woe emerge about Australia’s over-paid (IMO) and under performing (in just about everyone’s opinion) Job Network. Laura Tingle, writing for the AFR, did a three day expose of JN’s financial health (18-20 Feb 2004; no URL), confirming what I observed in January – the ludicrous expedience of using the disabled to prop up the ailing privatised system.

Since then, things seem to have only got worse. The most telling snippet from recent days is a quote from one Job Network provider, saying he had been informed by Canberra to use the Job Seeker Accounts of unemployed people “more creatively”* – essentially meaning that money held in trust for the benefit of unemployed persons is now expected to be used to meet the administrative overheads of the JN. Definite shades of the misappropriated Aboriginal trust accounts case in Queensland here – just how low Mal Brough can go still remains to be seen. Further bad news on the JN came out last week.

In today’s AFR**, however, there, is an uncharacteristically optimistic headline, followed by a sloppily–written story, quite possibly based on a media release from Mal Brough (there is no such release on Brough’s site at the time of writing – even among the dozens of identikit stories carrying today’s date, each one about local Work for the Dole “successes” – but the uncritical reportage, its “breaking” quality (anticipating a DEWR report only released today) and the centrality of a quote from Brough suggests his office played a large role in putting the story together).

Today’s AFR commits a compound act of lazy journalism with this para:

The report, to be released today, show that 46% of job search training participants, 38% of intensive assistance participants, and 50% of work for the dole participants moved from temporary or casual jobs to permanent jobs within three to 12 months of completing the services.

For a start, these figures are highly selective – irrationally so – concerning only a minor subset of the unemployed, and in any case, not giving a control figure: what percentage of the sub-group of unemployed who moved from temporary or casual jobs to permanent jobs (within the time period) did so without any JN assistance, thank you very much? My guess here is a figure higher than the highest given success rate of any of the three cited programs (50%).

Further, the respective success rates of the three cited programs yield some strange numbers indeed – with Work for the Dole – a purely punitive program, that is precluded from offering structured training by law – apparently the most successful, and intensive assistance (which pays JN providers the most) apparently the least successful.

Please explain, Mal.

* Patricia Karvelas "Rules eased to save job agents" The Australian 25 February 2004 (no URL)

** Cherelle Murphy “Job Network is working, survey says” Australian Financial Review 9 March 2004 (no URL)

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