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Work for the Dole – Policy Analysis

The Problem

. In 1997, the new Coalition Government introduced the ‘Work for the Dole’ programme, which is a legislative framework that sought to offer opportunities for eligible job seekers. (Martyn, 2006, p.3) experienced a record economic growth, but still was unsuccessful in reducing the rates of unemployment. The number of job opportunities offered by the manufacturing industries, especially for employees with limited skills started reducing in the 1980s because of increased global competition and technological change. Such changes left behind scores of individuals with limited work experience, skills and education and created social and personal employment barriers to people with disabilityMartyn (2006, p.3), WfD normally involves Australians in job-related activities, whereby the unemployed provide get work experience that could enable them to re-attach to the labour market. All through the 1990s, Australia, as cited by Yeend (2004),Work for the Dole (WfD) is a programme funded by the Australian government, which offers work experience activities and opportunities for qualified job seekers. According to

youth unemployment rate in Australia between 1978 and 2014 has been 13.55%. In the study, Borland and Tseng (2003) established that the probability of the young Australians taking part in the WfD programme to move off the welfare payments was very low mainly because individuals participating in the WfD lacked enough time to look for work. Philip and Mallan (2015, p.2), the average . This rate exhibits the magnitude of the unemployment problem in Australia since it is the highest since 2002. Furthermore, the youth unemployment rate in Australia increased from 13.2% in 2014 to 15.5% in 2015. According to (Philip & Mallan, 2015, p.2) WfD became the first policy that required jobseekers to participate in activities that is not associated with the skills. A number of commentators alleged that the WfD had negative motives since it diverts the job seekers from searching for the actual job. As of 2015, the rate of unemployment in Australia was 6.4% Philip and Mallan (2015, p.2)As mentioned by

Presuppositions or Assumptions Underlying the Problem

How the Representation Has Come About
posits that the actual rates of participation in the WfD programme are still low. Although the programme is somehow cheap, it has an enormous impact on the participants. OECD (2005, p.186)projects, and the projects are selected in a way that they do not compete with the private sector. The projects’ outcomes normally involve few experiences and skills. Since the number of unemployed individuals at short unemployment durations is exceedingly higher as compared to those unemployed for long durations, taking part in the WfD programme late after the unemployment spell can result in negative effects. Although the Australian activation strategies have facilitated the unemployed to take part in employment programmes, WfD Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) is tasked with managing the Martyn (2006, p.5), the . According to (Borland & Tseng, 2003, p.4355)The objectives of the WfD programme is to enable the unemployed people build networks, gain work experience, improve their motivation, communications skills as well as self-esteem; and take part in projects that are valuable to the community

As indicated by Borland (2014, p.1), the WfD programme has not been successful in managing the high levels of unemployment, which has been a key problem for Australian policy-makers for more than four decades. Unemployment is increasing in Australia because of the downturns in the economic growth rate. Therefore, WfD has unsuccessfully been applied as a labour market programme with the objective of reducing the high unemployment rate (Borland, 2014, p.1). Fowkes (2011, p.13) fails to understand how government still relies on the ‘Work for the Dole’ scheme despite numerous failures and the stigma associated with its name. An analysis by Biddle and Gray (2015, p.3) pointed out that the WfD scheme has resulted in a slight, but statistically important effects on the job placement. In the WfD14-15 scheme, the rate of job placement increased by 1.6% points (Biddle & Gray, 2015, p.3). Still, the government’s efforts in WfD scheme in remote Australia have been unsuccessful because the job seekers are facing increased financial hardship (Wild, 2016). However, the government $1 billion WfD scheme as pointed out by Aston (2016) has improved the likelihood of the unemployed to find a job by only 2% points. Nevile (2003) argues that the criticism against the WfD programme is based on two grounds, the ethical view which is associated with the programme’s compulsory aspect and the employment outcomes since the programme does not improve the probability of the participant to find a job; instead, it reduces the employment chances.

What Has Been Left Un-Problematic

According to Borland (2015), the Australian job programmes in the public sector, like the WfD have failed to improve employment outcomes because the long-term jobs availability is not improved and adequate opportunity are not offered in order for the workers to develop their skills. Active programmes in the labour market cannot single-handedly reduce the unemployment rates. Therefore, the level of dependence on the WfD programme as opined by Borland (2014, p.16) must be tailored to overall benefit it offers to society. Borland (2014, p.16) further maintains that high unemployment rates can be reduced by focusing on ways of improving economic growth. Still, when the WfD participants leave the programme, their job search activity is likely to reduce than those remaining in the programme. Philip and Mallan (2015, p.12) argue that when many youths participate in the programme, the WfD system will experience more pressure in managing and seeking places for young jobseekers. With no sufficient expansion and adjustment of WfD, young Australians are likely to experience poorer referrals as well as placement.

As pointed out by Junankar (2014, p.27), the policies that were recently announced by the Abbott government would likely prevent young Australians from getting unemployment benefits for half a year while for the remaining half-year they will have to participate in the WfD programme in case they fail to secure employment. Actually, it appears that the young people have been omitted from the welfare system. Still, WfD programme has an insignificant impact on the unemployed while finding jobs. Davidson (2015) posits that some of the WfD programme participants feel that they are being forced to undertake work that does not help them find good jobs. For this reason, Muller et al. (2006, p.51) suggest that the WfD programme should be reviewed in order to offer work experiences opportunities, which include job aspirations and preferences, especially for women. The WfD programme should offer opportunities that improve the well-being of the participants and must be consistent with the realities of the modern-day labour market and vocational preferences.

In sum, the existing evidence indicates that the unemployed people are inclined to experience a lot of problems as compared to the employed people. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that the WfD program does not improve the participants’ job prospects; instead, it negatively influences them because they are forced to undertake it. The job prospects of the unemployed can only be improved if the programme has no ethical objection and improves the outcomes of the participants. Even though the WfD was not introduced formally as a labour market programme, the previous governments have insisted that it improves the job prospects of the unemployed. However, the existing evidence suggests that the participants of the programme are forced to do work activities that are unrelated to the skills; thus, negatively affecting their job prospects. Generally, the WfD programme is less likely to help unemployed people to find jobs, unless the government of the day takes measures that could contribute to improving the employment outcomes of the WfD participants.


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Borland, J., 2014. Dealing with unemployment: What should be the role of labour market programs? Evidence Base, vol. 1, no. 4, pp.1-27.

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Fowkes, L., 2011. Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services. Perspective. Sydney: The Whitlam Institute University of Western Sydney.

Junankar, P.N.(., 2014. The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Youth Labour Markets. Discussion Paper. Bonn, Germany: The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Martyn, T., 2006. Training for work is more effective than Working for the Dole. Research Paper. Kings Cross, New South Wales: Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre.

Muller, J.J. et al., 2006. Gender Differences in the Impact of the ‘Work for the Dole’ Program on Wellbeing and Access to Latent Benefits. Australian Journal of Career Development, vol. 15, no. 1, pp.46-54.

Nevile, J.W., 2003. Employment outcomes of work for the Dole: an analysis of the DEWRSB net impact report. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Economic-Labour-Relations-Review/240488260.html» http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Economic-Labour-Relations-Review/240488260.html [Accessed 21 August 2016].

OECD, 2005. Labour Market Programmes and Activation Strategies: Evaluating the Impacts. In OECD Employment Outlook. Paris : OECD. pp.173-208.

Philip, T. & Mallan, K., 2015. A New Start?: Implications Of Work For The Dole On Mental Health Of Unemployed Young Australians. Working paper. St Lucia QLD: Children and Youth Research Centre Queensland University of Technology.

Wild, K., 2016. Remote work for dole branded a failure after figures show thousands of suspended payments. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-08/remote-work-for-dole-program-a-failure-academic-says/7492004» http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-08/remote-work-for-dole-program-a-failure-academic-says/7492004 [Accessed 21 September 2016].

Yeend, P., 2004. Mutual Obligation/Work for the Dole. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK «http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/dole» http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/dole [Accessed 21 September 2016].