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Training for work is more effective than Working for the Dole


Tim Martyn (JSS)
March 2006

Executive summary

This paper investigates Australia’s ‘mutual obligation’ policies for the unemployed, and makes a comparison with the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark. The focus of this investigation is whether ‘work first’ strategies or labour market training programs are more effective at reducing long-term unemployment. The findings of this paper suggest that policies that encourage greater social investment in the long-term unemployed, within an activity requirement framework, are the most effective at reducing persistent unemployment.

It concludes that emphasising individual responsibility is not in itself problematic; however, policies that increase individual responsibility without simultaneously improving individual capacity, fail to redress the real labour market barriers faced by disadvantaged jobseekers. In addition, by not addressing the real reasons for income support dependence, Australia’s ‘mutual obligation’ approach, as typified by the Work for the Dole program, only further stigmatises those already on the social and economical margins.


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textReturn to:
Joint research: the Mutual obligation franchise


Tim Martyn is the Research Officer at the Jesuit Social Services. The views expressed in this report are those of the author. Please email comments or corrections to tim.martyn@jss.org.au.



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