Mutual obligation requirements are tasks and activities jobseekers must undertake to receive their income support payments. Penalties apply if they are not met.
Mutual obligations is a policy driven by ideology. The evidence shows that mutual obligations cause financial hardship, and adversely impacts people’s mental and physical health.
Living on an income support payment that is below the poverty line is a major barrier to finding and securing work. This is only exacerbated by mutual obligation requirements, which see people get their payment suspended or cut, if they don’t meet arbitrary and burdensome activity requirements.
At the moment we have 1.14 million people on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance and only 245,400 jobs available.
WORK FOR THE DOLE
Introduced by the Howard Government, Work for the Dole is an exploitative and coercive program where jobseekers are engaged in work or work-like activities without access to basic workplace protections; such as a minimum wage, and occupational workplace health and safety legislation, in many cases, to the financial benefit of the organisation.
Jobseekers are required to undertake Work for the Dole activities after receiving the JobSeeker payment for 12 months.
Many people engaged with Work for the Dole activities describe their activities as ‘busy work’ to meet harsh mutual obligation requirements, rather than meaningful training experiences or creating employment pathways.
Similar programs are the Community Development Program for remote jobseekers (the majority of whom are First Nations peoples), and the PaTH program for people aged 17-24.
ParentNext is a compulsory ‘pre-employment’ program for people on the Parenting Payment, the vast majority of whom are single mothers.
Failure to complete compulsory activities often result in a payment suspension. Parents have had their income support payments cut off unexpectedly under the program’s compliance model, placing them and their children at risk and requiring emergency relief.
Half of all households in Australia who receive Parenting Payment live in poverty, with single mothers, who are overrepresented in this cohort, particularly at risk of financial stress.
Parents reported that they had been forced by their ParentsNext provider to attend activities such as library- run ‘storytime’, playgroup or swimming lessons with their children. Many have been directed to undertake further education at their own expense when they already hold qualifications.
Other parents described their frustrations in trying to exit the program after being incorrectly referred.
Parents – particularly single parents – should not be subjected to compliance measures and employment programs that significantly undermine their caring work.
The Australian Greens acknowledge that First Nations peoples are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land we call Australia. We know this land was stolen and that sovereignty was never ceded. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging.
Authorised by R. Siewert, The Australian Greens, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600.