National News

Labor eyes job seeker services overhaul

Australian job seekers receiving welfare payments could be made to jump through fewer hoops under a Labor government.

The opposition wants to overhaul the $6 billion Jobactive system that helps those looking for work land a job, believing it is weighed down by too much "box-ticking".

The federal government says the system can always be improved, but argues it is only fair those receiving welfare be forced to meet certain requirements such as the number of job applications they submit.

Under the current system, a network of employment service providers assist employers and job seekers.

Many people looking for work are required to meet some "mutual obligations" to get the dole.

The obligations can include applying for up to 20 jobs per month and taking part in the work-for-the-dole program for six months each year.

In an opinion piece in The Australian, Labor employment services spokeswoman Terri Butler says there's growing evidence Jobactive isn't working.

The number of employers involved with it dropped from 18 per cent in 2007 to four per cent last year.

Job seekers are also being churned through the system, Ms Butler says, with about 100,000 people landing between three and six jobs through Jobactive within three years.

She said a better system would give Jobactive providers more time to find people long-term work by dealing with issues like homelessness, along with building relationships with employers.

That could be achieved if providers were freed from obligations, such as 20 job applications monthly, which may not be getting results.

"There's no point just having people jump through hoops for the sake of it. That just costs the public purse money and doesn't get anyone anywhere," Ms Butler told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.

Business groups also believe the mutual obligations can be improved.

"Many employers bear the cost of sorting through unsuitable applications that are solely submitted for the purpose of meeting job search requirements," the Business Council of Australia told a government review of employment services, published in December.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said turning to Jobactive to find employees isn't on the radar of most businesses.

"The engagement has become critically low," he told AAP.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the coalition commissioned the recent review to improve Jobactive and is trialling using more online tools to support job seekers.

He warned Labor would "fundamentally weaken mutual obligation".

"If you're an Australian who is being supported through our social welfare system while looking for work, it is only fair that you should comply with the mutual obligation requirements," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

He said the proportion of Australians receiving welfare payments reached a 30-year low of 14.3 per cent in June 2018, according to the latest data analysis.

© AAP 2019