Is Turnbull's PaTH just a cleverer dole queue?

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Senator Michaelia Cash. Former ABS head says her jobs data 'not worth paper they're written on'. (Image courtesy www.sbs.com.au)

According to Marcus L'Estrange, a former DEECD employment officer, Labor Market Programs/schemes don't create jobs. They just churn over a lucky few at the top of the dole queue, usually into a short-term job.

MALCOLM TURNBULL's "PaTH" or Bill Shorten’s "Working Futures" or indeed any other Labour Market Program (LMP), will disappear without much trace if implemented because Labor Market Programs (LMPs) don’t create jobs, except in the training empires, of course, but overall, they're simply a cleverer dole queue. 

Many commentators still manage to miss what should be the bleeding obvious. If there were enough jobs, we wouldn't need any of these LMPs such as PaTH, which was announced in the last Budget or Bill Shorten’s equivalent.

We wouldn't need these so-called "pathways" to employment because, well, people could get a job and the employers would pay the training costs.

Many economists/academics/journalists/senior public servants/the Reserve Bank and governments of both persuasions spend far too much time analysing the ins and outs of the monthly ABS “Labour Force” unemployment figures which this new scheme is based on, but their analysis is a waste of time and is only done to maintain the current economic order. 

The monthly ABS “Labour Force” figures are riddled with many Catch-22 definitions of employment/unemployment that deliberately keep people artificially out of the so called “official” labour force and therefore out of the monthly unemployment statistics. 

Former Commonwealth Statistician, Dennis Trewin, once told Tim Colebatch of Fairfax Media that 

“the official (monthly) measure of unemployment does not reflect the true jobless rate”.

Former ALP Victorian employment minister Steve Crabb, an actuary, once said:

“There are lies, damn lies and statistics, the monthly unemployment numbers is not only misleading, it causes real harm and asked why the ABS produced these old cobblers”. 

One such problem is the off-loading of sole parents from the sole parent pension, on to the much lower paying Newstart (dole) allowance, when their child turns eight. Many sole parents then had to couch surf, sleep in their cars, experience homelessness, engage in prostitution or commit suicide. This reality is still a daily one for many on the dole.

The only valid surveys of the real unemployment, with some exceptions, are the ABS survey “Persons not in the labour force” or the Roy Morgan Research survey.

Economists/academics/senior public servants/the Reserve Bank and governments need to explain why they don't analyse these surveys and figures. The answer, of course, is that they don’t want to frighten the economic horses which the real figures would. 

The ABS uses the largely but not solely internationally sanctioned but very rubbery definition of unemployment, which is really similar to Tom Waits' definition of being drunk: you have to be really, really out of it to qualify. Or like being on a public hospital waiting list. You have to be on a list to get on to another list then to finally get on the actual list that gets you into a hospital.

Not only must you not be in employment, but you can’t have done even one hour of paid or unpaid in the four weeks prior to the survey. The employed person who works one hour has the same status of a person who works 40 plus hours. Nor can you be discouraged by the absence of available jobs either – you must have applied for something in the previous four weeks – and you must be available to start work during the week of the survey. Bad luck if you have even a very short term health problem or cannot find immediate child care.

Also leaving your CV with potential employees, more than a month ago, is not enough. 

The ABS “Persons not in the labour force” survey shows a real unemployment level of 1.8 million or 20 per cent chasing around 150,000 vacancies, or one job for every 20 people and I haven’t included the one million or so underemployed.

As mentioned above, the Roy Morgan Research figures are also an excellent source for analysis. 

In my 25 years in the old Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), I saw hundreds of Labour Market Programs come and go. At the peak of Labor’s ‘Working Nation’ there were 115 schemes or programs. They almost always collapsed in a heap often only to be resurrected under a new name when the government of the day felt the heat to be seen to be doing something. 

This is the real reason why we keep re-inventing programs for jobs that just aren't there with the politicians, academics, journalists, public servants and the Reserve Bank being too lazy to analyse the REAL unemployment figures. 

In days of old when the CES were bold, staff used to bet to see if who could remember the name of the earlier version of any "new" scheme that was announced by a desperate government. I won my fair share of counter lunches. 

This new scheme (PaTH) was brought in to replace the current Work for the Dole scheme because it was found, surprise, surprise, to be pointless. It was also introduced to continue the policing of the unemployed or the reserve army of the unemployed. 


Secondly, commentators think or presume that underpinning employment schemes like PATH is that at some point in the future there will be decent, full-time jobs that will eventually lower unemployment. Where have they been hiding? The age of full employment (1945/1950 –1975/1980) had fully finished by 1980, never to return, given current policies and economic order and I haven't even mentioned the future effects of robots on employment.

LMPs/schemes don't create jobs. They just generally churn a lucky few at the top of the dole queue usually into a short-term job.

I've placed thousands into jobs via LMPs when I worked in the Commonwealth Employment Service but as sure as night follows day most came back on the dole after three months. Then they were counted as short term unemployed and politicians crowed that they were reducing long–term unemployed. 


Ah, but then the penny has dropped. If we didn't have any new schemes what would academics/journalists/public servants have to analyse in order to keep their faculties, columns or departments going?

The final words go to Robert Gottliebsen and former ALP federal Finance Minister, Peter Walsh.

Robert Gottliebsen: ‘Tackling the spin surrounding the unemployment rate’, Business Spectator by Robert Gottliebsen, 28/4/2015 

The dramatic understatement of Australia’s (monthly) unemployment and underemployment is causing major distortions in the Australian economy and in the policy making of Australian politicians. 

By focusing on the artificially low ABS unemployment figure, we constantly make the wrong decisions.  For example, we have allowed interest rates to be substantially above the rest of the world, which has lifted our currency and boosted unemployment.  

Australians understand they face serious economic problems, particularly as they begin to appreciate the level of real unemployment and underemployment and demand action from their politicians. 

Peter Walsh: ‘Pledges we cannot stick to’, The Australian, by Henry Ergas, 10/08/2013

'Whatever one believes about he morality of telling lies, it is just not sensible to use dodgy figures, for a government which lies to delude the public, ends up deluding itself.'

Marcus L'Estrange's paper on this topic is available from: marcuslestrange@yahoo.com.au. You can also follow Marcus on Twitter @BlowerofWhistle.

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