BEING on the dole is a situation few would covet: the stigma of feeling unvalued, the social isolation that often tandems with being out of the workforce, and tellingly, the hand-to-mouth existence of surviving on scant means.
Despite this bleak picture, there is a surprisingly widely held view that people on Newstart are “dole bludgers”.
Most are not, and would much prefer paid, meaningful employment.
But like all blanket assumptions, there are exceptions to buck the rule – particularly in places like the Macleay Valley, where a good lifestyle can be had, even if unemployed.
For these exceptions, the crackdown on job avoiders in this week’s Federal Budget will be welcomed by the wider community.
The changes are measured – such as a requirement for employment agencies who are funded by the taxpayer to report to Centrelink when a client fails to turn up for a job interview.
An incline of financial penalties lay in wait for those who continue to fail to attend job interviews.
Dole bludgers might buck at such an encumbrance, but in truth – if they really do see the imposition of paid work as akin to the plague – they simply need to ‘fail’ at the job interview to avoid being hired.
Happily in Kempsey Shire, the level of unemployment has tailed off in recent years on the back of the duplication of the Pacific Highway through the valley – to our north from Frederickton and ongoing to our south to Port Macquarie.
These substantial infrastructure projects have led to scores of local people gaining trade skills and well paid employment.
The economic ripple effect of gainful employment benefits wider society – and there are social pluses too.
The system will never be perfect, but a mix of carrot and stick is the best approach to tackle unemployment.