Employment, a job, is widely recognised as the main way of participating in and contributing to Australian society. It provides income, activity, dignity, a social group, and a connection to society.
It is the anchor for many people contributing to their meaning and identity and setting them up for life and their retirement.
So what is it like then if you face the double whammy of there not being enough jobs, and also of having a government and society that encourages unemployment to be seen as a the fault purely of the individual.
In the first Anglicare Australia Jobs Availability Snapshot we seek evidence of what the job market is actually like if you haven't yet got qualifications or experience. The results are truly scary, it would seem hopeless to be in such a position when nationally there are 6.33 such job seekers for every "entry level" position and even these entry-level positions require up to a year 10 education or a certificate 1.
Alongside the Snapshot we have published the 2016 State of the Family report, Anglicare Australia's annual spotlight onto an aspect of life in Australia. This year we look at the things we do across the Anglicare Australia network which contribute to getting people into work and to keeping them there. The report itself shows that there is hope if we are willing to take on board the evidence of what works and invest in people and programs that out the person in the centre of the search for employment.
This research tells us two things. Firstly there is a decreasing number of entry level positions available. In May 2016 only 13.1 percent of all vacancies were at the entry level in 2006 this proportion would have been 21.7 percent. Secondly we can see that even using a very conservative measure to define disadvantaged job seekers there were many more job seekers than positions. This does not include all the other people that would be applying for these jobs.
The response seems simple and twofold, yet it also seems beyond our tolerance as a society.
We must consider forms of job creation, public and private partnerships to provide meaningful work that will enhance our communities and environment. These jobs should not be piecemeal and meaningless but offer a real line of sight to all the benefits that come with work. And as the jobs grow more complex we need to inoculate those people in level 5 positions against loss of that employment. All training including school education, VET courses and on the job training should include some scaffolding into the types of skills required in level 4 roles.
And while there aren't enough jobs to go around we need to be more compassionate towards those without employment, offering real ways to elicit well-being, participation and inclusion in our society. Many many groups are on the record stating that the dole (or Newstart Allowance) is pitifully low. Our own research with NATSEM shows people on Newstart spend 122 percent of their income! in reality this means people are going backwards from day one pawning belongings! going without and entering unsustainable borrowings. Hardly a new start.
Living so far below the poverty line does not prepare you for the work when jobs are available. It is hard to attend job interviews when you can't afford decent clothes; hard to stay connected when you spend all your time making the budget stretch to enough food; and hard to hold your head up when the accepted societal story is that a job is the only way to contribute and anyone without one is lazy and no good.
It is so much cheaper in the long run to invest in people. As we say in the report investing in people is what we do at Anglicare. Investing in people pays huge dividends for them and for the whole of society. But like financial investment we need to be in it beyond the short term. And like any investment the more you put in the greater the reward and the longer lasting its effects.
Investing in people is complex and requires individualized approaches that have to be re-thought out each time, co-designed with the person involved. There is no short cut if we are to have long lasting results. However this report shows us it is possible, the evidence is in, we just all need to be willing to contribute and recognise, as a society, that pointing blame and isn't enough.
There’s lots happening in the political space that pays little heed to those on the edges of society. Blaming people for being unemployed is symptomatic of the problem. One of the principles that underpins the work of all Anglicare members is to respect and value every person. It looks like that message is growing in importance as we move towards Christmas and the end of a long political year.
Executive Director, Anglicare Australia