Australia is suffering from a welfare crisis with the number of people now claiming at least one of the 16 welfare payments at a staggering 5.2 Million people. 760,972 of these are able bodied welfare recipients, with 324,731 of them considered long term unemployed.
Many of the 5.2 million people genuinely need government assistance. We have an obligation as a society to look after the people who are unable to work due to age or disability. It’s also fair to help someone who may have just lost their job until they are able to find employment again, but what about the 324,731 long term unemployed who continue to take from the government and ultimately the tax payer, yet give society nothing in return. Are these people simply unemployable or are they simply bludgers?
Recently the ‘Daily Telegraph’ featured an article on a new breed of Australian youth who were just simply “unwilling to work” and would rather spend their days sleeping, watching TV or hanging out at the local maccas.
The ‘Daily Telegraph’ interviewed two young girls from the socio-economic repressed suburb of Mount Druitt. Ashleigh, 21, told the publication that she would “never get a job”.
“I don’t want to work my whole life and just die … I want more than that”
Amy, 17, showed some willingness to work but recently lost her job, “I call in sick when I’m over it and then they just get rid of me. Not fair really because I just want to have a good time and chill but I don’t want to be fired.” This is the generation that is emerging; a generation of people who think the world owes them, that they are entitled to handouts, that they are entitled to reject all sense of responsibility or community engagement.
Our current welfare bill for this financial year stands at a staggering $158.6 billion and is expected to rise to $191.8 billion by 2020. The financial impact on this nation cannot continue on its current course.
Then there are the social implications of having a large number of people out of employment and not contributing to society. There is something to be said about having something to wake up to in the morning, a goal, a purpose. It may not be the most enjoyable thing to do with our time, but going to work contributes to our own self-worth, it gives us a sense of accomplishment and allows us to be productive members of society.
People who lack these things can often find themselves spiralling out of control, they lack meaning and purpose in their lives and are more likely to get involved in unhealthy habits such as drug and alcohol abuse; gambling or violence. These social problems have a large effect on society including on the government’s budget as additional resources are required to deal with the negative impact of these behaviours and issues.
Could the answer in curbing the number of able-bodied welfare recipients lie in a trial being conducted in both the Ceduna and Kimberley regions of South Australia? Results from these regions show that the program has at the very least reduced the social problems associated with high unemployment. In Ceduna there has been a 15 percent reduction in poker machine revenue, hospitals have seen a reduction in the number of admissions for alcohol related injuries and police have reported a reduction in people being apprehended for public intoxication. The results have had a proven positive effect on reducing social issues within these communities.
So what exactly is being trialled? Instead of welfare recipients receiving their welfare payments direct into their bank accounts, they are being provided with cashless welfare cards. The welfare recipients receive 20% of their pay in the bank, but the remaining 80% is provided on the welfare card. The card can only be used for essentials such as bills and groceries, reducing the amount of money recipients can use for things like gambling, drugs or alcohol.
It is to be seen if the program will encourage the long term unemployed to go out and gain paid employment. But the added benefit of reducing social issues makes the program a success.
Additional legislation and changes to our welfare state may very well be required to bring this welfare crisis under control. It is abundantly clear that we need to lose this sense of entitlement that has crept into the Australian psyche. Welfare should never be considered a free hand out, its purpose is to help those in need, those who are unable to find employment.
When people misuse and abuse the system, then the government has every right to change the rules. If those 324,731 able bodied long term unemployed don’t like it, then they always have the option of finding employment and earning their own money to use as they please.