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'Bleak' job market sees overqualified Aussies forced into dead-end jobs or Centrelink

Tough job market sees young Aussies take on dead-end work or fall back on Newstart. Source: Getty
Tough job market sees young Aussies take on dead-end work or fall back on Newstart. Source: Getty

When 27-year-old Harriet made the move from Adelaide to Melbourne in April this year, she was filled with optimism about the job prospects a bigger city would hold.

She’d completed a Bachelor of Nursing and followed it up with a Master’s in Public Health, but struggled to find work in Adelaide.

“I was relentlessly applying for about 10 months,” she told Yahoo Finance.


Eventually, she got a job offer for a community services organisation, but it was an entry level position unrelated to her degree.

“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.”

Living on Newstart

On Newstart, Harriet receives $615 per fortnight - and she pays $350 a fortnight in rent.

“It’s a three-bedroom share house in outer-Preston, which is nice. It takes around 45 minutes to catch the train into the city.

“After bills and everything gets taken out, I’m usually left with $200 for the fortnight.

“If I don’t have any unexpected costs coming up, I don’t struggle to feed myself most of the time. A couple of months ago I was hit with a bunch of bills - internet, gas and car bill - all at once, and I just had no money left.

“I had to ask friends to loan me money, which isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I owe probably about $800 in total in small loans to friends, and I also had to borrow $1,000 from my parents to pay for registering my car in Victoria. I have thousands of dollars in credit card debt.”

‘Hurdles to jump through’

Being on Newstart means Harriet’s put through inconvenient obstacles to find work.

“My mutual obligations are to apply for 20 jobs per month, and obviously to attend all appointments that my job active provider sets,” she said.

“In Adelaide, they used to make me attend the office once a week for an hour to apply for jobs in their office, and I’m like, ‘Why can’t I do that at home?’ I’m already applying for 20 jobs a month, why do I need to head out for the day and do that there?”

And her job active providers have often told her to remove some of her qualifications of her resume to get jobs.

“I would get knocked back for being overqualified, and while it is practical advice, it’s really f****ing bleak.

“That was five years of my life.”

‘It’s demoralising’

While the government is championing its ‘dole bludger’ stereotype, Harriet says that isn’t the case, and she’s “desperate for work”.

“When you get rejection letter after rejection letter, it’s demoralising,” she said.

“I came over with a lot of optimism and I still have that, but it’s definitely been beaten out of me.”

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