The government has announced that from today it is reinforcing mutual obligations as a requirement for individuals to receive JobSeeker payments. (Image Source: Medium)
By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill
The federal government has announced it will return to requesting mutual obligation requirements from JobSeeker recipients from Tuesday, June 9.
Mutual obligations are requirements—such as proof of applying for jobs and attending interviews—that welfare recipients must complete in order for them to receive their JobSeeker payments.
These mutual obligations were put on hold in mid-May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which saw unemployment rates in Australia rise to 6.2 per cent.
The New Ministry of Social Development data shows that the number of people receiving JobSeeker payments has also risen by 20 per cent since March 2020. This suggests that a significant amount of new welfare recipients have never had to provide mutual obligations in order to receive their payments.
However, minister for social services Anne Ruston has announced the implementation of stage one in a press release.
“Job seekers will be required to undertake at least one appointment with their employment services provider, which can be done online or over the phone,” she said.
“During the initial period following the reintroduction of mutual obligations, suspensions and financial penalties will not apply to job seekers who do not meet this requirement.”
Unemployment unions and welfare recipients have expressed dismay surrounding the return to mutual obligations.
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) is an independent and unfunded national volunteer organisation run by the unemployed, which is dedicated to protecting the rights and dignity of unemployed and underemployed workers.
They have described mutual obligation requirements from welfare recipients as an attempt to create a disincentive for people to remain on JobSeeker.
Youth Ambassador for the AUWU, Avery Howard, believes changing the discourse and stigma surrounding unemployment is fundamental in changing policies or increasing payments for JobSeeker.
“A lot of the stigma surrounding those who need social security stems from harmful governmental messaging and policy, as well as from the media,” he said.
“This has been achieved through the ‘dole bludger’ narrative, through the punitive and frankly useless ‘mutual obligations’ scheme with job service providers, and through those same providers not actually providing any assistance for jobseekers to find a job, nor help them be in a position where they can find one.
“If all a person hears about on television is that there are these ‘dole bludgers’ or ‘leaners’ who are rorting the system—when in fact the majority of those who use social security are using it in good faith—that person is going to believe the narrative provided to them.
“To remove these policies and messaging, as well as informing the general public of the truth of those on payments, would be the best option to reduce the stigma associated with unemployment.”
Mr Howard said reducing unemployment levels in Australia requires a federal job guarantee across the country.
“The AUWU is advocating for a federal job guarantee – a program that would end involuntary unemployment by providing decent work to anyone who wants it,” he said.
“An increase in payments after this crisis, as well as an increase in [the] actual support for job seekers, may also help achieve this, as it puts job seekers in a position where they are able to search for enriched and gainful employment.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has turned down speculation that the JobSeeker payments will return to the previous payment scheme equalling to $40 payments per day.
“We’re only 7 weeks now into a 6-month program, and it is very premature, I think, to be making judgments about what possible changes might be made,” he said.