Older Australians, out of work due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, are more pessimistic about their future work prospects than those aged 44 and under – and with good reason.
A national Anglicare survey of people receiving Centrelink payments found that just 13 per cent believed that reporting obligations were helping them to find work.
Many of the respondents aged 45 and over believed that they would never find paid work again.
While that prospect is bleak, it is supported by government data showing that workers who lose their jobs later in life are much less likely to find work again.
According to the survey, many people over the age of 45 reported feeling unsupported by the government and did not believe that the system was designed to help them.
As the survey was conducted between June and November, many of those responses were recorded before the government announced its JobMaker hiring credit, which provides employees with a financial incentive to hire younger workers.
Around 79 per cent of respondents felt that their Centrelink activities were pointless.
Disturbingly, the survey also revealed that the old JobSeeker rate was leaving recipients with as little as $7 a day after paying rent, said Anglicare Australia executive director Dr Kasy Chambers.
“We need to stop the cuts and raise the rate of JobSeeker for good,” Dr Chambers said. “It should be a scandal that so many people were forced to skip meals so often. Some people we surveyed were couch surfing and skipping meals every day. With so little money, they simply had no choice.
“The government must raise the rate for good to stop condemning these Australians … to a life of poverty.
“We have a system that forces people to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn’t leading to work.
“Lynchpins of the system, like Work for the Dole and Jobactive, have repeatedly been shown to fail – and they waste millions of dollars a year. This survey shows that people on the coalface know it.
“Yet most people in our survey actually want to do activities that matter, and that lead them into work. Instead, they are being forced into pointless busywork.”
The survey showed that 74 per cent of respondents would be willing to do Centrelink activities if they were fair and 75 per cent want to do activities that lead to work.
“We need to overhaul this system once and for all,” Dr Chambers said. “It’s time to stop punishing people for being out of work, and start giving them the support they need.”
The survey also found that people aged over 55 volunteered at higher rate than those under 55 (47 per cent compared with 39 per cent).
The recommendations from Anglicare in the wake of the survey results suggest removing the disincentives for volunteering to enable these efforts to be rewarded and enabled as they are more beneficial to individuals than the tasks and obligations they are currently required to undertake.
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