Australia

Job seekers relieved they won't have to apply for 20 jobs a month after Jobactive overhaul

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An overhaul of the government's Jobactive system will free unemployed people on welfare from having to apply for 20 jobs a month.

Job seekers are relieved they'll no longer have to apply for 20 positions a month to receive unemployment benefits, but some say the changes don't go far enough.

The government removed the requirement as part of an overhaul of the Jobactive system, which will also allow unemployed people to look for work online. 

Despite widening his search for jobs, Melbourne resident Sean Kenny, 29, says it's been stressful trying to meet the obligations.

Sean Kenny says there are not enough jobs for the number of people out of work.
Sean Kenny says there are not enough jobs for the number of people out of work.
SBS News

"It does turn into a box-ticking exercise where you do it because you have to," the 29 year old told SBS News.

"Often there aren't 20 good jobs to apply for so you apply for five to 10 jobs that you're qualified for and then you apply for another 10 or 15 just because you have to.

"It's extremely stressful, you get punished often and sometimes without being able to understand why."

He's been unemployed for 18 months. 

Stakeholders have largely welcomed the changes announced by Employment Minister Kelly O'Dwyer on Wednesday. 

Digital first

"It will have a focus on digital first - where people will be able to search for their jobs… and the government will get out of the way," Ms O'Dwyer said.  

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said more resources to support long-term unemployed people and greater flexibility were positive. 

But she warned too much reliance on a digital system could lead to another 'Robodebt' crisis. 

"Among the risks is the automation of services for others, which, as we know from the 'Robodebt' crisis can be disastrous if not very carefully designed," she said.

Ms O'Dwyer said the community expected job seekers receiving welfare to do everything they could to find a job. 

"But not only will our changes make mutual obligation activities more effective and targeted, it will reduce unsuitable applications to small businesses, reducing their burden and removing red tape."

KELLY O'DWYER PRESSER SYDNEY
Kelly O'Dwyer says job seekers will no longer have to attend regular appointments.
AAP

Savings from switching to an online platform will be reinvested to provide a more intensive, targeted and tailored face-to-face service for those trying to address barriers to finding a job.

"More resources will be available to reinvest in individually tailored support for more disadvantaged job seekers with multiple barriers to entry," Ms O'Dwyer said.

But Greens Senator Rachel Siewert questioned how long-term unemployed people would be able to afford internet to access the new digital platform. 

"I have to ask, for people living on Newstart on payments as low as $40 a day, many for years at a time, will they be provided with a supplement to ensure that they can access digital services?" Senator Siewert said.

Ms O'Dwyer said job seekers will still be able to speak to someone if they require advice, guidance or technical support.

The government will trial the reforms in Adelaide's southern suburbs and on the NSW Mid North Coast from July.

During the trial, the existing Jobactive contracts will be extended for two years, with the new model commencing nationally from July 2022.

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