Thursday, January 13, 2005

work for the dole.

Yesterday, there was an interesting article in the Age by Simon Castles decrying the work for the dole program. (Thanks to this fellow for pointing me in that direction - like your stuff).

Today, the Minister for Workplace Relations mounted a limp response to the criticisms that were levelled by Castles. It is not just the completely lame-ass nature of this reply that gets my goat, it is the blatant application of Howardian spin that is the norm these days. There is nothing of value here — there is no friggin' argument.

Dutton says that;
Castles states in his article, "what the long-term unemployed need is real training in real jobs, backed by intensive assistance tailored to them, as individuals". He is exactly right. That's why work for the dole works hand-in-glove with the Government's Job Network.
He doesn’t say how the systems are complementary, or how they have been successful. Not that he honestly can — the system does not provide effective support for long term unemployed. What he does do is go on and reel off some figures totally irrelevant to the argument about the “success” of the Job Network system. He says that;
[A] total of 625,000 job placements had been recorded in the past 12 months. This is a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.
Of course this means jack shit. This means that more people are going through the system, or that people are going through the system more times. In fact it can readily be taken to mean that the job network providers are shit at performing their task of matching prospective employers and employees. This could easily be a function of their incentive structure — I think that they get cash for finding people employment (ie. getting them off the unemployed list) not keeping them employed.*

Dutton then goes on and spouts some numbers regarding ‘commencements’ in work for the dole:
Since 1997 and including approved future projects, work for the dole has and will provide more than 330,000 work experience opportunities for job seekers. During 2003-04 there were more than 74,000 commencements in work for the dole, up 16 per cent on the previous year. In 2004-05 commencements are already up by 13 per cent compared with 2003-04 and on schedule to reach 85,000 commencements.
Again, this is not an indicator of the success or failure of the scheme. It is simply a set of numbers showing that the Howard government is pig headedly progressing with this program.

And that there are no numbers available that indicate that it has had any success.

An appropriate indicator would be more along the lines of looking at the effects of work for the dole on the spells of unemployment experienced by long term unemployed. This is what Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng tried to do last year in their paper, written at the instigation of the Department of Family and Community Services. They are very definite in their conclusions;
Participation in the Work for the Dole program is found to be associated with a large and significant adverse effect on the likelihood of exiting unemployment payments.
They pose three potential explanations for these outcomes:
- work for the dole may lead to a reduction in job search activities;
- can lead to a stigma effect; and
- it is experience not training, and has no siginificant effect on human capital.

Both Castles and the good Minister refer to this paper. Dutton says;
It is unfortunate that Castles attempts to lend weight to his criticism of work for the dole by citing research from the Melbourne Institute that found that participants in the program were 12 per cent less likely to find a job than unemployed people not in the scheme. That research looked at work for the dole during 1997 when it was a pilot program. Since then work for the dole has undergone major changes that have improved its effectiveness and links with other forms of employment assistance.
It is true that the paper refers 1997 data, because that was all that was made available to Borland and Tseng. Dutton makes no reference as to what “major” changes have been implemented, and provides no evidence at all of any change in effectiveness.

The program does not work, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise. There would be no reason to credit this article with response if it wasn't written by a Government Minister. This is all complete bollocks.

I just wish they would stop insulting our intelligence.

* Will have to look at this more at a later date. The Job Network system is certainly suspect, and we haven't even mentioned the Community Development Employment Projects yet.


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Well argued!

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