The Herald Sun: STARTING this week, those who have struggled to find work will be eligible for up to $6000 to move location to take up a job.
This means a Victorian who decides to take up work in a vineyard in the Yarra Valley or a mine in Queensland could claim $6000 for moving, and another $3000 if they’ve got kids.
In addition, a Job Commitment Bonus payment of $6500 will be provided to a young person who sticks at the job for two years.
Up to $15,500 is a generous reward for doing a quite normal thing but it’s the right policy to introduce: a fair go and a hand up to those who are willing to do their bit is the Australian way.
You don’t have to be moving to take on a highly skilled job such as an engineer in the mines, or a geologist. You could be picking up work on the production line at the vegetable processor, or picking fruit in an orchard, working at a local shop or pub. Healthcare workers are needed in many places. You also don’t have to move far. You just have to have been out of work for a year and move to somewhere of lower unemployment at least 90 minutes away. National employment has grown by 100,000 in the past eight months, but the figures hide a stark reality: some areas have significantly more workers than jobs, while others have more jobs than qualified workers.
To some extent, this has always been the case, but it has been heightened in recent years as our economy changes and develops.
The regions suffering labour shortages change over time. Two years ago Western Australia had only one-and-a-half job seekers for every vacancy, which meant some sectors were screaming for applicants.
Today the jobs market in WA has slowed somewhat but in the Northern Territory the ratio of job seekers per vacancy has halved to one job seeker for every job, which means many vacancies can’t be filled and the economy is held back. On the other hand, in parts of Victoria, youth unemployment is 17 per cent. Wouldn’t it be great if some of those young Victorians could find work in areas with a stronger need for workers? Ideally, keeping their skills here in Victoria, but, if not, further afield.
It’s natural young people are attached to the place they live. But one can always move back, and a couple of years of productive work becomes an attractive option to employers back home down the track. The Government and the taxpayer will get their money back and much more if we invest in steering individuals away from welfare into mobility for work.
But the economic argument isn’t the key factor. Even if we could afford people being idle, long-term welfare dependence is inhumane.
Nowhere has this been more clearly shown than in remote indigenous Australia. The history of this part of Australia in the past decades is a cruel, full-scale experiment to see what happens if you immerse an entire population in welfare dependency and social housing incentives that discourage people from moving.
Indigenous culture was traditionally quite mobile, but passive welfare created outback settlements with few economic opportunities. Only 18 per cent of 17-24-year-olds in remote communities are engaged in work or study, but the welfare and housing rules encourage them to stay put and not seek opportunities elsewhere. Australians will always have choice about where they live — this is part of our citizenship contract. But we should aim to incorporate a more widespread preparedness to be mobile and try something new.
I have always been struck by the transience of Americans. Many grow up in one state, move to another for college or training and then to another for work. It’s simply part of the American way of life. Australians haven’t embraced this mobility to the same extent.
With the exception of many rural people, we typically go to school where we live, then to one of our local universities or TAFEs and then get our first job not far from where we started.
We may not desire the same culture of mobility as Americans, but unless we encourage people to take jobs where they are located, we will be left with higher unemployment and longer dole queues. And that isn’t good for anyone.
ALAN TUDGE IS PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER