IT’S costing us $7.3 billion a year to help find work for unemployed Australians. But there could be a simple solution to the problem.
MOUNTING criticisms of private job-finding services have sparked calls for the Government to bring back an agency which for more than 50 years put Australians into work.
Small business wants the old Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) revived as employers and job seekers increasingly question the current system.
And with more than 700,000 unemployed, the Government could be forced to heed the calls.
Government-funded job services provided by private companies have failed, the chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia Peter Strong today told news.com.au.
“We believe we need a new version of the Commonwealth Employment Service,” said Mr Strong in an article to be posted on the COSBOA website.
One replacement option was a type of CES run out of Centrelink offices to combine employment searches and welfare activities.
The CES was created in 1946 to help the unemployed find work and was abolished by the government of John Howard in 1998 with the service handed to commercial operators.
Mr Strong said the CES had been “one place, a one-stop shop. Not perfect but better than what we have now”.
And what we have now has been branded as “hopeless mess” costing $7.3 billion a year, The Australian reports today.
It reported fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed clients of private providers found jobs lasting longer than six months and a third of the private operators were performing so badly they should be disqualified from tenders.
The 65 private services spent around half of the $7.3 billion from the Government on administration.
Mr Strong said there was a “textbook driven policy” that “the private sector will do a better job”. But the problem was when profits came before finding jobs.
“The end result has been poor service for the target groups and poor service for the small business community who are the largest group of tax collectors in the country,” he said.
“Perhaps if the system had been designed better the private sector could have succeeded but we need a fix and we need it now.”
Mr Strong said private operators quite rightly sought to make profits.
“The current employment support system, called Job Active, has government funds provided by a tender process to businesses to provide a service for the long term unemployed and others,” he said.
“These businesses do what a private business must do: they make a profit. Otherwise they would fail as businesses.
“As a result there will be cost cutting — like a good business should do — and services to clients will probably be, at the most, the minimum level possible. Are we happy with that?”
He said the CES was a one-stop for job seeking, retraining, support with Vocational Training (VET), works testing of the unemployed, support for older unemployed, local economic development, entry level training, youth support, skilled migration, temporary work visas, a local response to labour shortages, assistance with moving skilled and unskilled workers.
“Now post-CES the small business community in the main isn’t even aware of the services that are funded by government,” he said.
“The employment services are piecemeal and confusing. We have to go to one place for assistance with employment of long term unemployed, or any unemployed; we have to go to another place for information and administration of apprenticeships (and isn’t the apprenticeship system in tatters); we have to go somewhere else if we wish to employ a person with a severe disadvantage or a disability.
“Then somewhere else again when we are dealing with skilled migration.
“Centrelink will annoy employers non-stop with requests for information on an individual’s employment situation when this was previously easily done through the CES.
“There is also no local place for staff from ombudsmen and regulators to use as a base of activities and for vital
information on potential misbehaviour and fraud.
“There is no local representative of the federal government to help create and implement economic development or skills development campaigns. There is no local body that can assist large and small organisations going through major change including large retrenchment processes.”