Jobseeker recipients will soon be expected to carry out certain tasks under the mutual obligation requirements to continue receiving payments starting from next week. While it’s not a complete restart of the usual conditions, the timing seems a little off given the government just admitted the economy has dipped into a recession and job figures from employment sites remain low.
The Jobseeker system was announced in mid-March during the height of Australia’s coronavirus pandemic and aimed to provide supplementary payment of $550 a fortnight from 27 April 2020 for those receiving income support payments.
It was automatically added to anyone receiving Jobseeker, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefits. In addition to the payment, the government announced it would increase the partner income threshold cutoff from $48,000 to $80,000 as well as suspend mutual obligation requirements — such as applying for a minimum amount of jobs each week — that would qualify job seekers to receive these payments.
But now, the government is restarting some of its pre-coronavirus conditions for Australia’s welfare recipients.
The government is slowly reintroducing Jobseeker’s mutual obligation requirements
While it’s not slated as a total restart, Jobseeker recipients will need to start undertaking limited mutual obligation requirements from Tuesday 9 June. It’s expected recipients will have to complete some preliminary tasks depending on whether you have an employment service provider or an online employment service.
For the former, you’ll need to book in an appointment with them, online or over the phone, while those with online services will have to complete the tasks available on their dashboard. This includes completing Job Seeker Snapshot, approving and agreeing to a Job Plan, an employment and training declaration and demonstrating a job search effort.
In a slight reprieve, suspensions and financial penalties won’t apply during this time in case you forget to meet the requirements. Sole traders will also remain exempt from this reintroduction for now.
If you catch or someone you care for catches coronavirus during this time, you’ll be able to apply for a 14-day exemption to excuse from attending appointments or applying for roles.
Dr Gennadi Kazakevitch, a senior lecturer in economics at Monash Business School, told Lifehacker Australia it was a strange decision to reinstate the policy given we were barely out of the woods.
“It is difficult to understand why the government has decided to re-introduce this policy at this stage, considering that we are still in the situation of Covid-19 restrictions, and we are not even thinking yet about opening the country for tourists or international students,” Dr Kazakevitch said.
“This is an unprecedented situation requiring an unprecedented suite of measures differentiated across ages, skill levels and professions. The post-Covid-19 Australian economy will never be the same as before.”
Jobseeker changes seem ‘unnecessary’ and ‘inefficient’ as jobs remain low
It seems a strange move to encourage job seeking in a time when the government enters its first recession in 29 years and so few jobs are available.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), unemployment in the country increased by 104,500 between March 2019 and March 2020 thanks to the coronavirus crisis. It’s expected many more have since lost jobs. For many of those newly unemployed people, this will be their first brush Australia’s welfare system, which is often described as difficult to navigate.
Popular job site Seek released its May employment report mid-month, which highlighted just how dire the situation was. New job postings for April were down 49.9 per cent compared to the previous month and were down 65.6 per cent compared to April 2019.
The figures highlight just how competitive the job market is with more people becoming unemployed or under-employed while job postings dipped too. The most recent figures from Seek, released in late May, indicate job postings are improving but the recovery is slow and remains a far cry from pre-coronavirus levels.
Dr Kazakevitch said while the mutual obligations requirement policy was a good during normal times, it made little sense to bring it back while the economy was in such a bad state.
“Reintroducing the mutual obligation requirements at this stage will increase unnecessary and inefficient document turnover, while imposing an additional stress on job seekers,” Dr Kazakevitch said to Lifehacker Australia.
“Instead, we require strong government support training people in the areas people will always be required such as disability services; and the areas relying on temporary foreign workforce and work holiday makers.”
State governments have made attempts to encourage upskilling during the crisis in order to increase workers’ chances of getting employed but with many industries still shuttered across the country, it’s too soon to say how successful it will be.
“The government should seek innovative ways of supporting academic staff at universities and performing artists, so that the country does not irreversibly lose important skills in the post-Covid economy,” Dr Kazakevitch said.
For now, the re-introduction of mutual obligation requirements seems like a small policy change given the mountain of issues at play. As Dr Kazakevitch points out, however, policies that only cause jobseekers stress and deliver the government little good are the last thing we should be looking to now.
In light of the economic ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak in Australia, the government announced a new suite of welfare packages back in March to help Australians who've found themselves out of work with the new shutdown restrictions or economic downturn. Among them are the JobKeeper and Jobseeker payments, which are a little confusing at first. Here's what you need to know and some common questions you might have.Read more