Work for the Dole
Work for the Dole is an Australian federal government program that is a form of workfare, work-based welfare. It was first permanently enacted in 1998, having been trialed in 1997. It is one means by which job seekers can satisfy their mutual obligation requirements. Other mutual obligation measures are accredited study, part-time work, Army Reserves and volunteer work.
Under the Howard Government the scheme was compulsory and targeted the long-term unemployed. Shortly after the Rudd Government was formed it became voluntary. From 1 July 2015, Work for the Dole became effectively compulsory for the majority of unemployed people in Australia.
Basic Work for the Dole
Placements are available in a wide range of areas including heritage, the environment, arts, community care, tourism, sport and making and maintaining community services and facilities. Most projects benefit the general community through services and adding value to civic assets, however, some projects in drought affected areas are designed to benefit private enterprise (through the Drought Force scheme).
|Parliament Question Time, 30 May 2014 Luke Hartsuyker, Assistant Minister for Employment, responding to a question.|
Upon successful completion of a Work for the Dole placement, participants are usually eligible for a Training Credit to assist with accredited training ($800 for six months, less for less time), a Passport to Employment package of job application training, and a fortnightly transport supplement.
Work for the Dole services are delivered through community or local government bodies, or by the Green Corps. Job seekers may be required by the government to take part in Work for the Dole if they are aged 18 or 19 years, recently completed Year 12, getting the full rate of Youth Allowance, and have been getting payments for three months or more, or aged 18 to 59 years, getting the full rate of Youth Allowance or Newstart Allowance, and have been getting payments for twelve months or more.
In addition, job seekers aged 18 and over who get either allowance can volunteer to participate in an activity at any time. Those participating in the program usually do so for 32 hours per fortnight. Each placement lasts for six months, and is followed by six months without obligation to participate.
Work for the Dole participants may receive an extra $20.80 per fortnight, on top of their Allowance payments. Protective clothing is provided by the project sponsor if it is needed. Essential training, such as occupational health and safety training, is also provided. Transport costs are not separately covered however, and can easily absorb the additional payment - especially for those undertaking the "full time" version.
Work for the Dole was first proposed by the Liberal Party of Australia in 1987, and was enacted on a trial basis a year after it gained power at the 1996 federal election in their traditional coalition. Despite mixed feelings among younger people, at whom the program was aimed, there was little mainstream opposition when it was launched.
On 1 July 1998, all job seekers aged 18–24 that had been claiming benefits for six months or more were required to join the scheme. From 19 April 1999, job seekers aged 17 or 18 and who had left Year 12 had to join the scheme after three months of job seeking. During the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, all those of an eligible age who had been unemployed for three months or more and lived in Sydney were required to participate. This temporary change was made to encourage people to take up casual work during the Games. In December 2000, Work for the Dole was expanded to include those aged 35–39. Additionally, those aged 40–49 could volunteer themselves for the scheme for the first time. On 1 July 2002, Training Credits were paid to those completing the scheme for the first time. The initial amount was $800 for six months work.
In December 2002, the Drought Force initiative was enacted. Previously, all Work for the Dole projects directly benefited the public, community organisations or civic assets. However, this scheme expanded the scope to include work for privately owned agricultural properties in areas deemed to be experiencing exceptional circumstances (generally drought). On 1 July 2006, "Full Time Work for the Dole" was enacted for those seeking work for 12 months or more. They were directed towards a scheme identical to the standard form, except that the fortnightly hours of participation was increased to 50.
In July 2015 Work for the Dole was scaled up, with wider age groups as part of the government's welfare policy under former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The programme is administered by a network of private companies. Participants are required to perform a number of hours of community work to continue to receive Newstart allowance.
When the scheme was first announced in the late 1990s, some observers suggested it was ill-conceived from both social and economic viewpoints. For example, Bessant queried the Government's justifications for the scheme, which centred on providing a means for young people to get back into the workforce by improving their work ethic as a misunderstanding of the causes of youth unemployment. Bessant went on to say there is no evidence that poor attitudes towards work, disorganisation or other personal deficits are the primary source of youth unemployment, rather it is the result of globalisation, the exportation of unskilled labour and increased application of labour-saving technologies in industry. From an economic perspective, the scheme was praised for its potential, but the fact that it was not fully voluntary would make it difficult for employers to establish whether a person had the positive workplace characteristics associated with voluntary participation, or the less desirable characteristics associated with compulsory participation.
Several academics have pointed out that Work for the Dole is the embodiment of a paradigm shift in which welfare support is no longer being considered a "right", but rather "conditional support" in which unemployed people are expected to undertake their “mutual obligation”. Shaver suggests this violates the assumption that all citizens are equal in the status, dignity and worth that are necessary for full participation in democratic society.
Subsequent studies have investigated the impact of Work for the Dole in Australian society and found that because it compels or contracts individuals to contribute, it "may actually weaken their long-term commitment to society", while another has suggested it may be discriminatory because it was found to benefit men but not women. A 2013 examination of Department of Employment data revealed the program is one of the least effective way to help people find jobs. Work for the Dole has also been criticised by the Australian Council for Social Services. The Australian Greens do not support the program, describing it as cruel and punitive.
In 2015, ahead of reforms to the scheme which were implemented in July, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was criticised by sections of the media and other politicians for characterising the Work for the Dole scheme as an opportunity for employers to "try before they buy".
- (28 July 2014). Jobseekers must look for work daily as new rules make work for dole mandatory for all aged 18 to 49. news.com.au. Retrieved on 30 July 2014.
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- Gareth Hutchens (1 August 2014). "No modelling to prove Abbott's dole plan works". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "Work for the dole expansion continues Government's attack on job seekers". The Australian Greens. 27 July 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
- Rosie Lewis (20 May 2015). "Abbott tells business: you can try unemployed before you buy". The Australian (NewsCorp). Retrieved 6 June 2015.