Everyone knows the most basic human needs are water, food, shelter, and sleep, but you’ll need more than this to land a career.
Welfare works, even for those who are funding it as taxpayers. As well as giving support and assistance to the downtrodden and disadvantaged, it also reduces crime. If welfare was ever abolished, then all those who do not have adequate work will have no way of surviving without basic human needs. And when your access to basic human needs is disrupted, you will do anything to meet them.
But a government cannot give out money to the downtrodden or disadvantaged and simply hope for the best. Money, while the most important human creation, does not directly help in landing the career of one's dreams. It’ll pay for the fancy interview attire, but money cannot buy inspirations.
Growing up in Australia, I was fortunate enough to have welfare when I left high school. I was completely lost in what I really wanted to do as a career, so I hopped from one retail job to the next and tried out various things to find my calling. From hairdressing to horticulture, I did it all. Between jobs, I was supported by the fortnightly payments, but — frankly — that was it. During my job searching, I was given access to the tools to help me get a job (even though I had a computer and telephone at home) and was taught all I needed to know about job searching — from amazing resumes and CVs to winning the interview. But what really could have helped was discovering my own desired career, because I was truly lost on that front.
When I went through employment agencies, the rhetoric was much the same: “get a job ” and “study shmuddy” and “apply for 20 jobs a month”. I wish that I was given more than just “get a job” because when you are job searching around the age of 18 you are given two options: retail or hospitality. Not everyone wants to work their way up the retail or hospitality ladder.
It took me six years after high school to realise that writing was my passion. My own desired career, to be exact. I am absolutely certain that if any of the job searching agencies I went through tried to hone in on what I wanted to do in life, I would probably be in an established writing career by now. They were lucky that everyone around me was striving for a career or enjoying them because if I lived a life where everyone was in the same boat as me, I would likely give up — which is exactly what happens to those who are stuck on welfare as a young adult.
Work for the Dole and Cashless Welfare Cards
Two rather controversial initiatives introduced in Australia are the “Work for the Dole” (WFTD) scheme and cashless welfare cards. Both are extremely terrible ideas. WFTD is a scheme created by the federal government of Australia and first enacted in 1998. The main idea for this scheme was to give the unemployed a reason to get back into the workforce while also giving them things to put on their resume. It is a terrible idea because it doesn’t create an incentive for all job seekers to work in their desired career since most WFTD positions are retail, hospitality or cleaning jobs. WFTD was purely created to get job seekers working for their welfare. It is true that it gives them more stuff to put on the resume, but stacking shelves and working POS terminals are not difficult activities, and will not benefit someone who wants to get into a tertiary profession or even artistic profession. Also, with all the red tape around working for the dole, job seekers are treated like “criminals on parole”. If one comes late to a shift or misses a shift, their welfare payments could stop — and it’s not exactly clear what reasons are given mercy or not. If one is sick, they’ll need to get a doctors certificate and send it to Centrelink within a certain timeframe or their payments will cease. Imagine harbouring the stress of your payments possibly stopping while simultaneously looking for work.
And then there is the cashless welfare cards scheme, which is aimed at stopping people from spending their welfare on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, and is being trialled in a few “problem areas”. I’m not sure how hindering their independence will ever help them break the cycle of drug or alcohol dependence, or even help them strive for a meaningful career. I really hope this doesn’t go nationwide, as the effects will be disastrous. How are you supposed to achieve a meaningful career if your current life is set around job searching, eating and drinking non-alcoholic beverages? I do understand that 20% of their pay goes into their normal bank account, so they can still buy alcohol, but limiting a human’s life will never help them break the cycle of addiction. It’s just a great way to segregate the poverty-stricken from everyone else, and we all know how that turned out when whole suburbs around Australia were turned into government housing commission “ghettos”.
Making It Effective
The current system needs to be improved if we’re going to give the disadvantaged a step up. There needs to be more encouragement towards building careers and not just telling job seekers to “get a job”. There needs to be a system that works for each individual, not based on their needs, but based on what they really want in life. Making welfare more effective can be done in two ways:
First, the way employment agencies see job searching needs to change. Employment agencies need to look at job searching as a career building pathway and not as a means to an end. Everyone has their own life calling, and it’s up to the employment agency to find it, especially if the person has no clue. Finding their desired career can easily be done with a personality test, which is exactly what helped me find my desired career. Knowing oneself is the first step towards self-actualisation.
Second, receiving welfare needs to be made easier and more accessible, while still cracking down on fraud. My experience over the years has proven that receiving welfare is not an easy feat. There is so much red tape, so much ambiguity, and too much hassle involved in the process, adding stress to individuals which is not good for successful job seeking. Getting the right job is not just about great resumes and CVs, it’s also about the interview. The best interviews involve confidence, happiness and openness, and this doesn’t come easily when you’re stressed and unhappy.
I am thankful that I was surrounded by people who were following their dreams because now I’m following mine. But not everyone is as lucky as I was. I know there are plenty out there who feel perpetually stuck in the welfare world, skimming from job to job without a clear focus. Welfare is more than just money in a bank account, but it won’t get any better if we keep saying “get a job”.