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Social Welfare: Fact and Fiction

One of the more common complaints made by conservative contributors to social media debates, relates to the issue of welfare recipients, i.e., who is getting what. The more shared assertions are, that it is the generous nature of our welfare system that encourages migrants, asylum seekers and so-called economic refugees to come here.

Some of these complaints border on the absurd, others reflect a flimsy and ignorant grasp of economics, i.e., that a dollar spent on migrants is a dollar less spent on them. And still others offer such paltry objections that clearly mask a strong racist element.

These social media morons do this to invoke fear among us that a continued influx of economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers will only place a greater burden on the health and welfare budgets and contribute disproportionately to the ever increasing deficit.

scottTreasurer Scott Morrison has, by his recent actions, made it clear that the issue of welfare is going to be high on his “things to fix” list. He, more than anyone else, probably realises that his future political success will be determined by what he does in his current portfolio, rather than anything he has done previously.

To the conservative mind-set, that means trying to return the budget to surplus, or at least, being seen to be doing so. For reasons unknown, Morrison has chosen welfare as his first target closely followed by health, even though there are more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. The conclusion, the simplistic Neo-liberal voter would assume, is because both are big ticket items.

That, however, does not necessarily mean that they offer big ticket savings. Last year, only 1366 cases were referred for welfare fraud prosecution. This is 0.02 per cent of all welfare recipients. Yet the government claims this “crackdown” will raise an extra $2 billion over three to four years, according to MYEFO.

passantAs John Passant describes it, “This is fairyland stuff designed more to create a “dole bludger” atmosphere rather than to address the real issues of collapsing revenue and ways to get rid of the tax rorts for the rich and powerful.”

But it might not be so much a matter of savings that drives the treasurer to target these two areas. It just might be that hidden behind that claim lies a more sinister intent that has more to do with the vote winning issue of migration.

A recent study by the Irish-based EU organisation, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) includes a report that examined, the extent to which mobile citizens from central and eastern European Member States, take up benefits and services in nine host countries; the nine host countries being the more affluent ones in Europe, e.g. Germany, Britain, Sweden, etc.

The report found that mobile citizens from poorer nations have lower take-up rates of welfare support in host countries than locals. This is in contrast to one British tabloid, the Daily Mail, reporting that, “migration from Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East to Britain was “costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.”

migrantsConservative elements in most countries whip up this notion of the ‘economic migrant’ to stir up the emotions of the public and turn them against supporting new entrants to their countries.

So-called concerned citizens will often cite, incorrectly as it turns out, that migrants turn up and claim full rights to whatever benefits they can claim. They will often claim the burden on the welfare system and displacement of native workers as their primary motive.

Given the detail in the European report it is reasonable to assume that the take-up of welfare benefits and public services in Australia by migrants is also lower overall than that of the local population, including social housing and pensions.

Unfortunately, the MSM here, who thrive on beating up raw prejudice among their readership will probably not be interested in the information contained in this report.

We know, however, that Scott Morrison employed 97 communications staff to monitor the media when he was Immigration Minister and we well remember his suggestion to his shadow cabinet colleagues in 2011 that they should take advantage of the community concerns about the influx of Muslim refugees.

delayAdd to that, he recently made his feelings on future recipients of the aged pension very clear. One would think, therefore, that we are entitled to view any future comments and actions by him regarding welfare recipients and those receiving health benefits, through this same prism.

 

 

38 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    In November 2013, the ABS released a survey on the characteristics of recent migrants (previous 10 years)

    Of those who obtained Australian citizenship since arrival, the labour participation rate was 77 per cent, which is above the national average rate of about 65 per cent. Claims that migrants are a net pressure on welfare payments do not stack up.

    The majority (82%) of recent migrants were aged 20-44 years on arrival which will greatly help the problems associated with our aging population.

    Almost two thirds of Australia’s 1.5 million recent migrants and temporary residents were employed in 2013

    About 11 per cent of recent migrants who have had a job in Australia had their first job arranged before their arrival. Another 43 per cent spent three months or less looking for their first job

    An estimated 62 per cent of recent migrants had obtained a non-school qualification before arrival in Australia. Of these, 72 per cent had obtained a Bachelor Degree or higher. Additionally, almost one third (30 per cent) of recent migrants had obtained a non-school qualification since arrival in Australia.

    The unemployment rate for recent migrants was 7%, compared with 5.4% for people born in Australia. Migrants with Australian citizenship had an unemployment rate of 4.3%, temporary residents 4.6% and recent migrants on a permanent visa 9.0%. Lack of work experience in Australia and language difficulties were the two biggest impediments to gaining employment.
    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6250.0

  2. Wally

    “Treasurer Scott Morrison has, by his recent actions, made it clear that the issue of welfare is going to be high on his “things to fix” list.”

    Creating real jobs that provide an income people can afford to live on would be the best place to start, I don’t see many employers screaming for full time workers at the moment. The majority of new jobs are part time service/retail positions with staggered working hours for employers who do not believe they should have to pay penalty rates.

    The definition of a job needs to revert to what it was 20 years ago and governments need to realise that a small percentage of people are unemployable, it would cost industry more money to employ them and pay for their stuff ups than any productive work they do generates in income. We are better off leaving them on the dole.

  3. Florence nee Fedup

    Welfare should under pin a civil society. Not spending on so called welfare can and does lead to government having to outlay more money.

    Welfare should be seen as a investment in the country’s future.

  4. diannaart

    Morrison is using the same old plan:

    Load misery on refugees who managed to make it here before ‘the boats were stopped’ to dissuade other people getting on boats. But this time it is the Grand Plan, the fuehrer of all plans; make life so bad, Australians want to flee, then refugees won’t want to come here.

    Makes perfect sense if you’re a neo-con far-right-wingnut.

  5. Wayne Turner

    Just more of the Libs minority bashing of the less well off.

    The real fraud,is the job network providers that exploit the unemployed (Don’t find them the jobs,but claim they did.) and rort tax payers.

  6. David

    As usual the Torys under the new economic phony Morrisonscum are appealing to the lowest common denominator, just as they have with terrorists under the bed, a Carbon Tax will be the end of family life,, Wyella will be wiped off the map etc etc etc.
    Dole bludgers is sure to appeal to the neo Nazi types who will get Morrisonscums message across better and far more loudly, than his News Corp mates.
    Nothing but nothing has changed under this dirt bag Govt led by the weak snake oil salesman Turnbull. His smirks, Colgate flashy smile, and debonair toff appearance are camouflage for his insipid interior. He is merely the puppet of the hard right, may he rot in hell with the rest of them’
    Leave the nations families, workers, sick. unemployed and pensioners alone you bastards!!!!!

  7. paul walter

    Yep..punish the scum.

  8. Bronte ALLAN

    What a marvelous, wonderful human being he obviously must be, NOT!! Sadly just another inept, lying, toe rag, flat earth, right wing, tea party, conservative crone, like all his mates! The fact he had such an obscenely large number of so-called “media/communications” staff when he was Immigration Minister just shows how out of touch he is with the “normal” people! I am so pissed off with all sides of politics at present, & it will not be getting any better soon! The opposition is so weak & seems to almost follow the liberal line in lots of things that there is almost no difference between them. It seems to me that the future for all Australians will be bleak, especially so for all the working class, Pensioners, persons on Welfare etc. Even the Xenophon lot have some “policies” or plans that are not in line with what normal, working class people would want–the scrapping or vastly changing of Penalty rates is one example.

  9. Chris

    Yep Bronte ALLAN Labor are not much better and tend to keep the unfair processes that the Lieberals introduce (as well as instituting a few of their own ie single parents…). And at the same time all sides of politics feign anguish and concern for the high rates of suicide in Australia while making things infinitely harder or impossible for the most vulnerable. I find it hard not to see all of them as ‘murderers’.
    Xenophon is no better (and generally serves the interests of the Liberals of which he was a member at one time).
    “‘Cash grab’ feathering MPs’ nests, Greens say. ..South Australian MPs are set for a Christmas bonus, with at least a $30,000 salary boost from next year” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/south-australian-mps'-pay-boosted-by-at-least-30,000/7038254
    How is that even slightly justifiable ? All politicians here seem to need to make enough money to be able to leave SA these days….

  10. Garth

    I’m currently unemployed, looking for work but it’s bloody hard at the moment. I’m just into my 40’s but get treated like I’m ready for the old folks home by potential employers. This ‘government’ makes me scared, yes, SCARED. I’ve worked all my life up until now and the only message I get from the ‘leaders’ of my country is that I’m a burden and a fraud. It really hurts and although I know it isn’t true it still is hard to shake the feeling. Shame on these people! Politics is one thing but pandering to the lowest common denominator is vile and damaging. I hate what my country is becoming under these….. I won’t use the word I want to for fear of offending.

  11. Chris

    Garth I feel for you and do know what you mean….Don’t be so afraid to offend. People like you are being right royally done over in this country. You have a right to be angry. Just look after yourself as best you can as well.
    : )

  12. Chris

    I don’t know what Jay Weatherill is thinking these days but he seems to want to give the Liberals the best chance of winning another election…..I thought he was supposed to be a ‘good guy’ ?

  13. Garth

    Thanks Chris. I really appreciate it 🙂

  14. paul walter

    Chris, are you from Adelaide? If so, you must be aware of John Rau’s War on Gum Trees. It is a desolate government at times and likely only the farcical SA Libs could have formed a worse one.

    Garth, scream as long and as loud as you want, Chris nails it in commenting on how the unemployed are right royally done over by conservative politics.

    It has been that way and steadily worsening since the mid seventies and most people have a tale to tell for the time or times they have been consgned through no fault of their own to the tender ministrations of social security and centrelink.

    When I was young the olds always warned us that once the powerful got their boots into our necks there would be little hope of getting back.

    We live in a new age of servility, capitulation, collaboration abnegation and abjection. Alienation is the motif of a neo feudalist New World Order.

  15. paul walter

    Yet, we know now what a dismal wrong turn Australians took over two years ago with Abbott. The much maligned Rudd/Gillard era now turns out to have been a time of relative sanity, diligence and humanity.

  16. Garth

    Thanks Paul. To expand on my previous comment, it’s the Work for the Dole program that is most humiliating. It is incredibly difficult to look for work when you are doing 4 days a week of what I’m told is ‘volunteer’ work. If it’s volunteering why is it compulsory – an oxymoron if ever there was one (don’t do the WFTD and you lose your benefit). The work is of no value and it’s just a way for this current government to beat up on those on benefits.
    I just also want to say I hate the term ‘dole’ and the way it is being used in official programs. It has always been a derogatory term in Australia (ie. Dole bludger) and I can only think it has been used in the name of the WFTD program to reinforce that perception.

  17. Pingback: Social Welfare: Fact and Fiction | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  18. Chris

    paul walter Yeah…born in Adelaide moved to the country back to the city to Melbourne back to Adelaide then back to a rural area…..
    You may need to insert your own punctuation there… : )

  19. Ned

    It sends the wrong signal, Morrison are telling the poor “DONT WORK.” “Don’t risk it!” You’ll mess up navigating the complex declaring of income to Centrlink your owed from your part time casual employer. And one screw up and we will make you homeless.
    So this so called crack down will massively negatively effect private and government income at a time the economy needs it to get out of recession and provide a tax base from those who normally spend all income in economy. Which is why we are in recession. No confidence at the bottom income bracket,
    they don’t trust the government. the Guv is attacking PAYG which they rely on as 40 percent of its tax revenue because the tax system is so distorted and rewards welfare for rent seeking speculators and not penslises real work earners. This is bold and high arrogance from a government that is about to fall in January 2016 with the global economy. The biggest fall since great depression and take the economy down with them.

  20. Ned

    And ive got another good one for Morrison.
    Everyone sign the petition at ‘Change’ my fellow Exmormon friend Sarah Fuller started and has launched to send to Penny Wong to get Morrison’s Hill song Church and The LDS Mormon Church to pay Tax in Australia

  21. RosemaryJ36

    Education should also be seen as an investment and making education free should ensure more rapid returns for the economy. How can you buy and furnish a house AND meet your HECS debt?

  22. Wayne Turner

    To Garth: Really sorry to hear about your situation. I can some what relate: I am 38,almost 39 and been made redundant TWICE this year from two different full-time jobs.First one I was at for 9 years and the other about 6 months. Both businesses went down the drain,no fault of mine.

    I have just got a casual job (after applying for over 50 various jobs and only hearing back from about 3),but no idea of amount of hours and how often I will be working.It’s a start,but how much of a start,I will have to see….

    I really need a full-time job,for the money to live. But finding one is the tough part.

    I feel your pain Garth. There is alot more unemployed people,than vacant jobs available.Then add to that the underemployment of alot more casual and/or part-time than full-time jobs available,for those that want/need full-time work.

    As well as the “victim blaming” and bashing of the unemployed the other reason,governments,especially the Libs carry on with it: To try to “pass the buck” to the unemployed so the government can absolve themselves from doing nothing about help to creat decent paying jobs (especially full-time) for those that want and need them.Plus of course the Libs don’t want that cause they are puppets for the big end of town,and certainly NOT working people.

    Also,yeap Garth “work for the dole” aka “new aged slave labour”.Is an exercise in demonizing the unemployed and punishing the unemployed.It’s a waste of time and money – The programs don’t get people into employment and cost millions to set up.A WASTE OF MONEY.They are there for “appearances” to “appease” the selfish and ignorant who are lucky to have a job.It’s another sign of what a pathetic society we are – Demonizing a less well off minority to appease an ignorant greedy selfish majority 🙁

    Please remember Garth,you are NOT to blame in anyway. The whole system is broken,and you are another victim of this,and it sucks. Good luck Garth…

  23. Sen Nearly Ile

    You are not without support, Garth, little billy has quietly given you $96000 to spend retraining.
    So get into it.
    A course in design is only $60000.
    Or maybe get a job with the loonies?
    (They must be flush with the proceeds from their support for the boys policy to hide the ATO details for private companies,)

  24. Garth

    @RosemaryJ36….I completely agree with you but unfortunately the neolib ideology doesn’t. Something isn’t of value unless there is a $ amount attached to it. It is incredibly short sighted and just ignores the realities of how a growing society works. In the end they are just selfish and want to hold any advantage for themselves. Making money the determinant of any progress helps them do that.

  25. Garth

    @Wayne Turner… Thank you. My best wishes for you as well. 🙂

  26. Michael

    Work for the dole – have pity on current lot of politicians

  27. Michael Lacey

    The rich live off welfare. The whole system is rigged in their favor; banks rig currency markets, derivatives are manipulated, energy prices are manipulated, commodities are manipulated, gold and silver are manipulated, interest rates are manipulated, there is little to no risk when they get caught. When the free trade agreements ( corporate rights agreements) are signed off the interests of their executives and shareholders will be met but not the welfare of workers’ health, safety, or wages, and not the environment. We are being conned alright!

  28. Mercurial

    Thanks John. Another article that supports a belief I have had for some time: progressives use reason and evidence to back their claims; conservatives use fear and lies.

  29. Chopper

    Some of these numbers dont seem to stack up. How can Kaye Lee say that 2/3s (66%) of recent migrants were employed in 2013….then say that the unemployment rate for recent migrants is 7% in the same comment?

    You do realise that >60% of australian migrants come over here under work visas (skilled, temp employment, company transfers erc.)? No one has an issue with that, except those who hate 457 visas. So let’s assume that all 60% got jobs and became citizens. To get up to the 77% quoted by Kaye Lee of new citizens in work…that means that 60% of people who came to australia via one of the other methods, like a humanitary visa, family visa etc. is unemployed. 60 bloody percent. That is the only figure you should be concerned with.

    You wont find a single conservative knocking those who come over to work. I am not a fan of 457s because they were rorted under Labor as they were overwhelemed by the boat people crisis. You could get PR in under 2 years when they were in power. You can barely claim benefits until you become PR…and still then its only a fraction of what it is when you become a citizen. Once you get pr…citizenship is assured.

    Using people on working visas to defend those on other types of visas is rather dumb. What happened to all the hate on 457s and how it takes jobs from australians? Which might explain why more aussies are out of work? Seems your argument is a tad confused.

  30. Möbius Ecko

    Of course 457 visas aren’t rorted under Liberals, only Labor? Also I believe it was the Liberals who relaxed the regs on them so much they’ve turned into a permanent rort for business.

  31. John

    Chopper – Kaye Lee put her source at the start of her post maybe you need to ask the ABS.

    “In November 2013, the ABS released a survey on the characteristics of recent migrants (previous 10 years)”

    As far as rorting 457 Visas I think Gina Rinehart would top the list and I doubt if she is a Labor supporter.

  32. Choppa

    I am not a fan of temporary skilled visas being a stepping stone to PR – dont get me wrong. I have been through the trauma of trying to get a visa for an ex partner during the wonderful period Rudd was our PM…..applications didn’t get out of control due to Howard as Gillard claimed 6 years later (a bit late to be blaming the previous gov?). It was the “stream lining” policies introduced by Rudd, that allowed any man/woman on earth who had ever held a job to be able to get a visa in under 2 weeks that made it get out of control (if you didnt have skills that aligned itself with one of the jobs on the “shortage list”, you had never worked in your life). The only time they tried to stem the flow, was leading up to the election in 2010 – when over night sometime in early 2010, they scrapped every non humanitarian visa application for the financial year to cook the immigration books leading up to the election. Waiting times went from 2 weeks to 12-24 months. What happened literally a few weeks after the election? Waiting times were back to 2 weeks.

    Anyway, admittedly i didnt look at Kaye-Lee’s link. I still cant find all the info. However this kinda agrees with my high level analysis of her numbers:

    “Most recent migrants (89%) who had arrived to live in Australia on a Skilled visa reported wages or salaries as the main source of household income, whereas 59% of migrants who had arrived on a Humanitarian visa said Australian or overseas government pensions or allowances were their main source of household income”.

    Those that come here on work visas tend to work, funnily enough. Those that come here otherwise, tend to rely on benefits.

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6250.0Main%20Features4Nov%202013?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=6250.0&issue=Nov%202013&num=&view=

  33. Wally

    “Those that come here on work visas tend to work, funnily enough”

    That wouldn’t by any chance have something to do with them being bought in to fill a vacant position? If they didn’t have a position to fill they would not get a 457 visa. What percentage of jobs filled by 457 visa holders are actually advertised in Australia? Are 457 visa holders paid the same rate as local worker’s in the same or similar positions?

    All of my questions are difficult to answer because employers who use 457 visa holders to fill positions refuse to provide details and on construction sites 457 visa holders are trained to say they are permanent residents. The majority do not speak very much English but they ramble off details denying being on 457 visas easily and funnily enough they do not fly out like all of the other workers.

  34. mars08

    It’s my understanding that, under trade agreements with certain countries… projects being established by companies from those countries can employ 457 visa workers without recruiting locally. It is, in effect, a closed shop.

  35. Choppa

    Wally i think the figure is less than 2% of 457 workers were found to be getting paid less than their Australian comrades? I know in my field at least (engineering) they all get paid at least what we do…and in a few other fields that im involved in its definitely the same. All are british or indian…all are highly qualified and all are pretty decent at what they do. There was a time we needed them, but we definitely dont need them now. Not from a sense that they are a burden to the tax payer, as is the theme of this article…cause if you are on a skilled visa or 457 visa and lose your job, you dont get any benefits. Only once you are PR can you start claiming any sort of benefits…and its still only a small amount compared to a full citizen. Its from the sense that some of them still have jobs when aussies with the same skills dont.

    I have no doubt there is some rorting going on though. There is an infamous visa factory on Murray street in the Perth CBD that exists to this day – or should i say – Korean hair salon. They have at any time 15 hair dressers on duty…yet only room to cut 4 peoples hair. It’s interesting cause i had 6 people working on my hair when i made the mistake of going there ($10, couldnt resist). None of them had the first clue how to cut hair, nor could half of them speak one word of english. As soon as hair dressing was added to the shortage list….this sort of crap was bound to happen. As skillful as some hair dressers might be – its not the sort of job that should be a gateway to a passport. How about another old favourite – restaurant or cafe managers? That’s right – you could have a single referee from the coffee shop you use to work at back home say you use to manage the front till…and boom, just a few years later and you are a permanent resident in australia performing the much needed duty of making flat whites.

    The thing about 457 jobs…is they arent advertised as 457 jobs are they. A lot of folk…and i can name a gazillion irishmen in trades as an example…come over on a working holiday visa, who can be employed in any job with no need for market testing… and then transfer to a 457 later. It’s far easier to get a 457 onshore than offshore and without seeing the stats, i’d say the majority come from onshore. What routinely happens is that an employer will hire someone on a working holiday visa, like them, offer to sponsor them, then advertise it as is the requirement of local market testing, tailor that advertisement so it exactly matches that persons exact set of skills that could only be 100% matched by that person – then say they were the only person who fitted the bill. It’s that easy.

    However back on topic. The fact is these people still work and aren’t a burden on the tax payer. It’s what happens further down the track though…when they start dragging their families in that is not tracked very well. Whilst they can bring their immediate partner and children as part of their initial visa, the thing is they aren’t privy to benefits until they reach PR, unlike other types of visas. They can still send their kids to state schools, have some medicare benefits, but its really naff all. Certain migrants get the full menu of benefits straight up, no questions asked. That’s of course where the ‘economic migrant’ argument is focused – not at skilled migrants. Sure you can consider skilled Indians economic migrants ……since they get paid more here than they do in India which must be one of the reasons they come, however they came here to work.

    John has pointed to a study done by some irish mob that talks about movement of EU people within europe…then somehow arrives at this:

    “Given the detail in the European report it is reasonable to assume that the take-up of welfare benefits and public services in Australia by migrants is also lower overall than that of the local population, including social housing and pensions.”

    For starters – EU people moving between EU countries is a completely different thing isnt it, so you cant compare it at all. And if you take the UK for example – they have changed their laws time and time again for what benefits, and jobs are available to EU members after the complete cock up they made at the start when the first few EE countries came in. If you cant get benefits now – surely that would lead to statistics that show people arent getting them? Shame this report didnt include migrants from asia and the middle east – that’s where the money is in terms of economic migrants.

    But i wonder if John actually read this all revealing investigation? if like me, he encountered “no data available” at every opportunity there was to prove what John was implying….he might’ve then given up on what a waste of time the whole review was and skip to the conclusions. The first point in the conclusion I think sums up that entire thing (page 66):

    “Several conclusions can be drawn on the take-up of benefits and social services by EU mobile
    citizens.
    • Since employment is the dominant motivation for mobility among EU10 citizens, most of the
    benefits and services they use are related to the labour market and low income. Their take-up
    of unemployment benefit is higher than that of host-country nationals in most cases where such
    data are available. In Germany, the take-up of unemployment benefit by EU10 citizens has
    recently been increasing more than that of other citizen groups.”

    Doesnt this say exactly the opposite of how John summarised it?

  36. Kaye Lee

    Choppa,

    “How can Kaye Lee say that 2/3s (66%) of recent migrants were employed in 2013….then say that the unemployment rate for recent migrants is 7% in the same comment?”

    People are only considered unemployed if jobless, actively seeking work, and available to take a job. In Australia our participation rate is about 65%. That does not mean we have an unemployment rate of 35%.

  37. Zathras

    How much of this welfare bill is being spent on the under-employed?

    The Howard/Reith era ushered in the age of part-time/casual/contractor employment which meant lower costs for employers but a bigger burden on the taxpayer who had to take up the slack via new allowances to keep many of those new employees above the poverty line.

    They may have disappeared from the unemployment statistics but not from the rising welfare bill.

    It’s much easier to scapegoat the newcomers and blame them for the result of decisions that were made about other people long ago.

  38. caroline

    If the populace learnt that the Govt doesn’t need any tax dollars, that a sovereign Govt is not anything like a household.or business, their pack.of cards would fall.

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