Tony Abbott’s proposal to withdraw unemployment benefits for those aged under 30 - it is only a thought by Abbott not Liberal Party policy – seems to be without much empirical support. The implicit theory seems to be that ‘surfie-bum’-types on Australia’s east coast are not accepting paid work in the Pilbara that they could do and, instead are rorting unemployment benefits. The difficulty is that while this group will often (not always) have greater mobility than older Australians with families it is not clear that they will have the sought-skills. Unemployment rates are high among those under age 25, particularly among those without skills, so for those unemployed in this group who cannot be mobile (some will have family commitments) or those don’t have the right skill mix, real hardship might be imposed by such an exclusion.
Most of those unemployed in this age group are not ‘surfie bums’ – most unemployed people will take a well paid job if it is available to them. Abbott needs to slow down and stop shooting divisively from the hip – this is sending out the wrong message about the unemployed.
My guess is that the policy will have limited effects in generating more jobs and will not, in fact, capture many rorters – it really is desirable to get evidence on this. It will however plausibly create quite a bit of injustice. With our strong economy and low unemployment this suggested action is forcing the wrong resolution of an important social tradeoff. Yes we don’t want loafers (how many?) but given our substantial affluence nor do we want injustice. More from John Quiggin. (343)