Poverty and unemployment can make Christmas a very bleak time for some folk. While thinking about their struggle I was overwhelmed by how we have demonised and abandoned so many who need our help, so I did what I so often do, escaping to my world of numbers, knowing there has to be a better way.
The Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz said:
“… it should be the task of every job seeker to make it their full-time job to gain employment … Because the data is overwhelming … If you are unemployed, the physical health, mental health, self-esteem, social interaction of that individual are all diminished.”
As Bill Mitchell wisely observes:
“If the unemployed have a responsibility “to make it their full-time job to gain employment” even though the income support payments the Government provides leave most of them impoverished (and deliberately so), then the Government has a responsibility to use its fiscal capacity to provide sufficient work.”
So here are some numbers to contemplate as some of us digest our Christmas feasts.
The Commonwealth spends $7.5 billion on Newstart Allowance each year and the number claiming is rising by about 5% annually. It has also committed to give $5.1 billion to Employment Providers over the next three years and $525 million for the Green Army.
At present, the Newstart Allowance supports approximately 740,000 people without a job.
The national minimum wage is currently $16.87 per hour.
Instead of forcing unemployed people to work 15 hours a week to get their Newstart payment (with a possible additional payment of $20.80 a fortnight to help with costs of taking part in the Work for the Dole activity), why don’t we give them real jobs for 20 hours a week starting at the minimum wage. This would give them a wage of $674.80 a fortnight, give them some work experience, and also allow them some time to be studying or looking for other work. Considering the maximum payment a single person with no children can receive now is $515.60 a fortnight, this would be a significant boost.
If 500,000 people were given jobs under these circumstances it would cost us about $8.8 billion a year, less than we are already spending ($9.4 billion), and the same as Joe Hockey gifted to the RBA. It’s less than we spend on Operation Sovereign Borders and much less than Tony is spending on foreign built fighter jets and submarines…..to get half a million people into work and one step closer to moving out of poverty.
There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that can be created which meet current unmet community needs and would help people and the natural environment and which would be accessible for any skill level.
All it takes is for a government to have the brains, courage and heart to do it.
We need the Wizard of Oz.