Saturday, August 13, 2011

staying connected

When I was young [very young] I wondered why Superman, the Lone Ranger and Rin Tin Tin were all American. Gosh, even when Men from Mars came to earth they always went to America.
Any suggestions, customers?

as a man who has my utmost respect says repeatedly:
"if it doesn't work in practice,
you've got the wrong theory"

From January 1 next year, teenage mothers relying on welfare will be required to meet certain obligations if they want their payments to continue.
When the child is 6 months, they’ll have to attend support and engagement interviews at Centrelink, and develop a participation plan. Once the child is 12 months old, the mums will be required to finish secondary school, undergo other training or find work. The plan is that as soon as the child is 6 years old, the parent will be obliged to look for work.

Like similar plans to trial an extension of the NT Intervention quarantine of unemployment benefits, this tough love policy will be tested in 10 areas specifically chosen as problem areas. In Victoria, the areas targeted will be Hume [Broadmeadows] and Shepparton.

What reports like this one don’t discuss in much detail is that there is a growing trend in the USA, the UK and in Australia to find ways to end welfare dependency. This is not policy as class war, but simply a recognition of the reality that welfare is itself creating an underclass. There are people on welfare payments who would like to be independent but lack the training, social skills, confidence or whatever else it takes to find and keep jobs. The solution is a combination of “help and hassle”.

In the early 1990s the Keating government started the ball rolling in Australia with ‘reciprocal obligation’ reforms, and the Howard government followed this up with its ‘Work for the Dole’ strategy.

While there are about 11,000 teen mums receiving parenting payments, it would be unfair to think single parents who make babies for a living are the only ones receiving help. Even most middle class two-parent families are entitled to assistance under the Family Tax A and B provisions, childcare rebates and the new Paid Parental Leave scheme.

The moves will not necessarily save government spending, but will hopefully help break the welfare dependency cycle. Presumably teen mums are being targeted in the hope of prevention, with perhaps older mums to be ‘cured’ later.
Anything that might prevent children from growing up feeling disconnected from their community has to be a good thing.

While I have no in principle objection to this policy targeting teens specifically, one might wonder how study or similar obligations can be enforced if the mums in question are not old enough to have a licence [or rich enough to have a car], or are not somehow within commuting distance of a decent job, or a TAFE College or other Registered Training Organisation [RTO].

The farce that passes for Public Transport in this country is one of the single greatest barriers between people and jobs. This is a farce not just because of its unreliability or scarcity, but because unless trains or buses are packed they are simply not safe.

I’ve touched recently on some issues affecting the mobility of labour, but saved my pet peeve til now, and that is that beyond the question of portable skills, is the issue of portable qualifications.

While the federal government is doing its utmost to introduce the idea of a national curriculum, qualifications are not yet fully portable. The Australian Qualifications Training Framework [AQTF] administers the standards applicable to TAFE colleges [run by state governments] and Registered Training Organisations [RTOs] [run by private providers].
  • Despite the best efforts of the AQTF to clean up their act, the fact remains that there is still a huge disparity in the quality of training provided by some RTOs and the rest of the TAFE sector.
  • It has taken a couple of decades, but we now have moved closer to the dream of qualifications which can be transferred across state lines.
    Naturally, any training which requires familiarity with local laws or regulations cannot really be transferred effectively. While we continue to support state governments this will be an ongoing problem.

Let’s look at Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety (BSB41407) programs from various providers:
  • RMIT: fast track programs allow you to complete a Certificate IV or Diploma in 6 months.
  • National Safety Council provides this course over 12 months $1950.
  • People Safe between 6 and 12 months, $1800 with no pre-requisites OR a 6 day accelerated learning program for corporate groups.

Some units cross state borders and some don’t. For example, there is different work cover legislation in each state. Even though the principles are the same, the acts are different and use different acronyms etc etc.

On the plus side, loans are now available for TAFE fees.

Job matching [on behalf of Centrelink] has been privatised for quite some time, and this is complemented by the Australian Jobsearch Website.

On this website, using Industry – Mining and Location – WA I came up with 39 jobs as of 13/08/2011. [If this results link doesn’t work it would not take you long to search again.]

Most of these “mining industry” jobs are for taxi drivers [indigenous/ or disability positions], bar staff or baristas.

One can only trust that ads for the gazillion jobs available in the mining industry are not being entrusted to the government’s website.

So we turn to Seek which is probably the biggest job site, and look for Mining Resources and Energy, any type of job, in Rural WA. Thousands of jobs. How many for unskilled or inexperienced operators? Well, I could spend a week wading through the ads, but I wouldn’t expect to find many [if any].
Should someone who is receiving Newstart and living in Melbourne be expected to fly [if they can afford it] to WA and ask on the off-chance the “experienced” requirement” can be waived?

I do this exercise only to stress a point:
  • unemployed people and job vacancies do not necessarily line up in terms of either skills or state of residence;
  • all training and encouragement we give the unemployed is good, but if we pressure people and build up their hopes and pay for all this and they remain unemployed they will still be disconnected [if not more so];
  • where welfare plus training costs amounts to stimulus packages with no accompanying growth of job creation, in the long run we'll get stagflation.

Like many laudable government policies, I do not have a lot of faith that the ‘help and hassle’ approach will be implemented effectively.
Continued hectoring of the unemployed with references to the mining boom is alienating, and foolish.


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