Monday, 28 July 2014

Five things to do when you're on Work for the Dole

This week, the Federal Government released details of its expanded Work for the Dole scheme.  Under the proposal, Australians aged under 30 will be required to work 25 hours per week to receive their welfare payments. Those aged between 31 and 49 will have to work 15 hours and the over 50s can undertake an “approved activity” for 15 hours a week, which probably doesn’t include lawn bowls at the local RSL.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz has explained the policy and how a person might benefit from it in simple terms. Two job applications a day – one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Did you hear there’s a shortage of bricklayers in Melbourne? A spot of community work (averaging five hours a day) sandwiched in the middle. And voila! A young person has fulfilled their ‘mutual obligation’ for the dole cheque that they can access six months from now. In the meantime, there are a few constructive things they could be doing. Let’s walk through those options.

1. Volunteer to help small businesses sort and file rubbish job applications.
“The small business person might be having a lousy day and no customers are coming in, but she’ll be getting job-seekers,” said Peter Strong of the Council of Small Business Australia, nailing the problems confronting the SME sector. Job seeking is all about solving the employer’s problem, not yours. So forget pretending you’ve got barista skills and instead, tell the small business proprietor that you understand their frustration at having to read another bloody CV from a hopeless case while they’re standing around waiting for customers to walk in. Say you’ll take care of that for them. Then set up a booth beside the deli counter and practice saying, “Thank you. I’ll be sure to be in touch should a suitable position become available.” Make sure you have a baseball bat at the ready. Given the stampede expected by small businesses, that should take care of about four of your five daily hours of ‘work’ time.

2. Help a pollie get that book out of them. We know they’ve all got a trilogy in them (Aspiring Me, My Time As Leader, After They Ditched Me The Bastards). An unexamined life is not worth living and a career in politics is worth zip if you don’t write a book about it. But politicians are short on time, so why not offer to shadow one for a few months, take voluminous notes and show you can multitask by filing their Cabcharge receipts into neat bundles. “Wedding – Friend. Wedding – Attended only to spruik policies. Wedding – shitfaced, can’t remember whose it was.”

3. Get yourself a shovel and gardening gloves and take some Direct Action. Greg Hunt’s Direct Action climate policy involves planting 20 million trees to drink in the stinking rotten carbon coming out of the brown coal industry. So far, we haven’t seen so much as a seedling from this policy. But I think it’s fair to say, the greening of Australia will have to start soon, so watch a few episodes of Backyard Blitz and start practicing your speed-planting skills by snipping off a few Agapanthus stems from the neighbourhood and transplant them into pots. Take these into Centrelink as evidence of your transferable skills.

4. Hold up the cue cards for Bill Shorten. This isn’t as daunting as it seems. Just grab two pieces of cardboard – either side of the box you sleep in will do – and in big black texta, write “Inside voice” and on the other, “Ranty, union-days, indignant voice”.  Just make sure you hold up the right one at the right time. This will be a real confidence boost, because whoever’s doing the job now keeps stuffing them up.

5. Develop an App. Applying for jobs is so, like pre-GFC. Don’t wait for the government to create a whole new industry to replace the manufacturing, retail and green energy sectors they’ve decimated, get cracking on making your own! Start with low hanging fruit, such as an App modelled on pollie speak that will help you and your fellow job seekers respond to unwanted questions about your employment status. Pre-loaded with impenetrable scripts from expensive consultants, it could go something like this:

Q: Why have you been out of work for 4 years?
A: That’s an operational issue.
Q: Why are you interested in this position?
A: I’m not a Job Snob. 
Q: Can you describe your previous role? 
A: Yes. It was called, Operation Sovereign Bong Smoking Hour. It was necessary to protect the one hour a day I had for non-mutual-obligation activities from further incursions. 
There might not be any jobs, but there’s a lot of work to be done. So pull up your socks and get cracking.

Diana Elliott is a freelance writer.

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