One of Australia's most respected workplace economists says
there is no evidence that ''work for the dole'' schemes actually work,
accusing the federal government of expanding the program for political,
rather than economic, reasons.

The Abbott government will force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month
and perform up to 25 hours of community service as part of a new job
placement program, set to begin on July 1, 2015.

Details of the three-year, $5.1 billion program were released on Monday,
along with an overhaul of the country's work for the dole program.

Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker said taxpayers expected
the unemployed to be looking for work, and that it was ''not
unreasonable to expect job seekers to be out there looking for work,
every working day''.

But Professor Jeff Borland from the University of Melbourne - who
conducted the only empirical study of the Howard government's work for
the dole scheme - says years of research show such schemes are unlikely
to help people find jobs.

''The international evidence is overwhelming,'' he said. ''It's hard to
believe that the government couldn't understand that this isn't the best
way to improve people's employability.

''I guess you have to conclude that there are other reasons for wanting
to expand the program, and the title of the scheme [work for the dole]
suggests it's being done for political reasons.''

Under the government's proposed overhaul, job seekers younger than 30
will be ineligible for welfare payments for six months after applying
for benefits, and they will have to work 25 hours a week for six months
of the year. Those between 30 and 49 will be asked to do 15 hours' work a
week for six months a year, while those aged 50-60 will undertake 15
hours a week of an approved activity, such as training. But young job
seekers will also be required to apply for 40 jobs a month and meet
other activity requirements for unemployment benefits.

The Business Council of Australia said it welcomed parts of the
government's new model, such as the clearer targeting of assistance for
people most in need, and the focus on rewarding job outcomes, but more
action would be needed to find the right balance in connecting job
seekers with employers.

''We are concerned about the practicality of asking people to apply for
40 jobs each month in the current softening labour market,'' BCA chief
executive Jennifer Westacott said.

NSW Business Chamber chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright said the
government was right to espouse the principle of mutual obligation,
saying there was no doubt some welfare recipients did not want to work,
but added: ''I am not convinced that firing off 40 random job
applications each month, regardless of the suitability of those jobs or
the likelihood of success, is sound policy.''

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, which represents
non-profit employment service providers, said he could not see how some
young job seekers would be able to survive under the regime.

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