Stuck on Newstart: ‘I don’t understand why more people aren’t angry’ | Australia news


Nijole Naujokas has been on and off Centrelink for the better part of the past decade. Even during those times when the 34-year-old had work, the hours were casual and were never enough. Newstart came to be a top-up for her low wages.

To break the cycle, Nijole applied for the Disability Support Pension (DSP), but the Department of Human Services knocked back her application and never explained why.

She hasn’t tried again since and instead has accepted having to live on a payment that leaves her, after housing costs, with $169.03 a week. The poverty line, according to the Australian Council of Social Service, was $353.29 a week after housing costs.

The figure is so low Nijole says she lives in constant fear she might be cut off “at any moment” for something as simple as an administrative error by a receptionist.

“For me personally, dealing with the Jobnetwork system and Disability Employment Service is one of the most mind-numbing, depressing, bureaucratic aspects of being on a Centrelink payment.”

Nijole is not alone.

Across Australia there are roughly 700,000 people out of work and 1.3 million who are underemployed – that is, people who have jobs but are not working enough hours.

While the national jobless rate as of February 2019 stood at 5%, breaking down this figure by geographic region sees it rise sharply among Indigenous communities and working class suburbs on the edges of major cities. In Port Adelaide – where Nijole grew up – unemployment is double the national average at 10.8%.

Meanwhile, long-term unemployment – which counts those who have been out of work for over a year – has stayed at 1.4%, a figure which may seem low but which Jim Stanford from the Centre for Future work says conceals much.

“One per cent of the labour force long-term unemployed is too many and that is real pain, and it really understates the pain because a lot of people who are unemployed for longer than a year would completely give up looking,” Stanford says.

Peter Davidson, a senior policy adviser to Acoss, says many are stuck.

“Long-term unemployment has become more entrenched since the 90s when less than 50% of Newstart recipient were long-term. Now it’s two-thirds,” Davidson said.

“They face real challenges in the labour market because they have a one-year gap in their resume, they’re more likely to be older, they’re more likely to have disabilities, they’re more likely to be caring for a child or be Indigenous. The longer they are out of paid work, the less likely it is they’ll pick up a job,” he said.

Department of Social Services data released in December 2018 shows two-in-three people on Newstart were out of work for over a year, with 17.3% having lived on the payment for over a decade. They were also more likely to be older, with the majority of all recipients aged between 55 and 64 years old.

Dr Kathy Moore from Queensland University of Technology once worked for Jobnetwork providers – the organisations tasked with helping unemployed people find jobs – but now studies unemployment. She says there are as many ways a person can end up out of work as there are people in that position.

“Many, many personal circumstances play a part,” Moore says. “So many Australians are living paycheque-to-paycheque and it can happen to any of us, at any time.”

Moore says someone may be dealing with an illness, an injury or may have found their qualifications are no longer valued. They might be facing other structural factors like homelessness, region-specific economic trouble like drought, or issues relating to their particular demographic. More often it involves a mix.

Among young unemployed people, for instance, 18.4% of those who didn’t have a job during 2017 were long-term unemployed. Moore says a common experience for many involves graduating from school or university to find there are no entry-level jobs where they live.

“[In that case] there just aren’t opportunities without experience, and employers are asking for loads and loads of experience,” she says. “There’s only so many jobs you can apply for before thinking, well, I’ve given up.”

For older Australians, the experience is different. A report last year from the Brotherhood of St Laurence found older Australians who fell into unemployment were less likely to become unemployed than young people, but more likely to be unemployed for longer.

Dr Dina Bowman, who worked on the study, said common stories among older workers involved the loss of a relationship due to divorce or death, or industrial closures, as with the end of the Australian car industry.

“They’re people who’ve held long-term jobs, people who have been employed and then something happens,” Bowman says. “You might have someone whose had full-time work and been made redundant. And we know from other research theirs is a downward trajectory.”

Out on the job market, age-based discrimination in hiring practices and a changed world means they struggle.

“They find the world of work has changed. The world of recruitment has changed. Everything’s changed,” Bowman says.

It is the crude stereotypes and tendency to treat all unemployed people alike – among both policymakers and the general public – which bothers Nijole.

“You can’t win with a lot of people,” she says. “You either don’t look poor enough, or if I do look poor, they’re like, ‘what a lazy slob, no wonder she can’t get a job’.

“Everyone deserves a right to exist in this country with a roof over their head and food in their stomach and to not be denigrated for that.”

Reporting in this series is supported by VivCourt through the Guardian Civic Journalism Trust



Source link

About the Author

Australia News
More Than 20 Years in News and jobs

Be the first to comment on "Stuck on Newstart: ‘I don’t understand why more people aren’t angry’ | Australia news"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


%d bloggers like this: