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‘Cruel and cynical’: Newstart recipients told to get jobs that don’t exist

If you have a go, you don't always get a go. Source: Getty

Newstart recipients have been told by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that, “if you have a go, you get a go”, but new data has revealed that is not the case. 

According to the latest Newstart figures released in December, and the latest job vacancy data released by the government this month, Newstart recipients outnumber job vacancies by almost three to one across the nation.

There are 686,785 Newstart recipients to just 234,400 job vacancies, with the ratio of Newstart recipients to job vacancies at its highest in Tasmania and South Australia.

“The Prime Minister is cruelly and cynically offering false hope to Australians doing it tough when he says ‘if you have a go, you get a go’”, said Labor MP Linda Burney.

“The facts, figures and reality show that it is a mathematical impossibility for everyone on Newstart to get off the payment. Instead of boosting a sagging economy by increasing Newstart, the Liberals are cutting it.”

What’s more, the latest jobs data from Sunsuper shows it’s only getting tougher to lock down a permanent job. 

Across 2019, contingent job vacancies (temporary, contract and casual work) saw successive quarterly growth, while traditional permanent employment numbers struggled.

“Employers are responding prudently to tighter business conditions by hiring temporary and contract staff in case conditions deteriorate further,” said Sunsuper’s chief economist Brian Parker.

“There has been a more general longer-term trend both locally and internationally for employers to shift their balance towards contingent staffing solutions, in search of greater workforce flexibility.”

According to Parker, the ACT job market is strong, driven by temporary and contract roles in the federal government.

“Permanent opportunities are harder to come by, showing more restrained growth.”

‘I’m relentlessly applying’

27-year-old Newstart recipient, Harriet, told Yahoo Finance last year that, despite completing a Bachelor of Nursing and Master’s in Public Health, she’s still struggling to find gainful employment.

“I was relentlessly applying for about 10 months,” she said.

The only job she could get her hands on was one well below her paygrade.

“I was glad to have the income and stable employment, but it was definitely a role that I felt over-qualified for.

“Management tried to make the job more interesting – to their credit – and more in my field, but they were paying me an entry-level admin wage, and getting me to do more work.

“It just felt dead-end, and while it was better than living on Newstart, it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.”

Underemployment a growing issue

Underemployment, which is defined as the total number of people in the labour market that are working but would like more hours of work, is a major issue for Australians.

Latest figures show the underemployment rate in Australia is at 8.3 per cent – over 3 per cent above the 5.1 per cent unemployment rate – and it’s women and young workers who do it toughest.

For women, the rate of underemployment is 10 per cent, and for young workers that rate is nearly 20 per cent, data from earlier this year shows.

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