From years of experience doing good works, the key exit strategy for the poor, has always been “employment”. This tends to apply irrespective of the situation (The Great Depression) or the poor’s status (be it homelessness, disability, mental illness, refugee or discrimination). For whatever their situation they remain dependent upon the generosity of others for help. Unemployment is a serious responsibility for all, not just for the unemployed but especially for those that are already employed. Here we appeal to the altruistic-side of all ordinary people, especially those who are employed, and care for the poor and unemployed; whatever their particular circumstances or background. This initial “awareness” into some of the complexities of unemployment in Australia, targets primarily our poor, unemployed youth and the elderly (be they school drop-outs, school leavers or university graduates). This awareness read is designed to provide relevant background material for self-help for the unemployed demographic and encouragement to other more fortunate employed people to lend a helping hand to them.
One of the big hard problems facing Australians today (and both our State and Federal Governments) is jobs creation and the associated reduction in our current unemployment numbers. A recent OEDC paper found Australia already has the strictest job-search demands of any OEDC country. Little wonder, the bulk of ordinary Australians regarded a recent Federal Government’s Work (Harder) for the Dole 2014 Budget proposal to be far too onerous on the unemployed and not the smartest approach to reducing our current unemployment numbers. Hence probably why it is stalled in the Senate and not gaining support from ordinary people. Given there are 13 times as many people seeking work than there are jobs available/advertised, asking the unemployed to working harder does not make sense in filling this gap. By not providing the unemployed with any dole payments for 6 months until 40 job applications per month have been submitted, is not only be too onerous on the unemployed but does not impressed employer business groups either because of the onerous task they face in dealing with so many applications for too few available jobs.
Although many ordinary people, charity groups and business groups do generally agree with the governments’ principle – “Looking for work should be a full-time job if it’s being done on the Commonwealth taxpayer.” But most do not agree this approach is the smartest, most cost effective way to reduce unemployment numbers nor to contribute meaningfully to the creation of more jobs. It is not fair, nor equitable nor likely to make an effective contribution to society in return for dole payments. Government initiatives, such as this that do not measure their benefit outcomes with transparency and equality, and therefore should be replaced by smarter solutions which do.
A smarter solution would be the provision of a new Social Care Model with the necessary policies in place to support an innovative social network solution that empowers ordinary people (mainly employed volunteers) the opportunity to participate in the process. It is not a silver bullet, but a strategic initiative involving less government (tax payer) outlay with the potential to produce greater measurable benefits. The gap between being unemployed for a substantial amount of time and gaining full-time employment is far too large. Some bridge or platform of support is required to narrow this gap by making this journey more credible.
The high poverty level in Australia (2.5 million or 13.9% of the population according to the latest ACOSS report “Poverty in Australia’) is mainly due to the high levels of unemployment. “The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week, yet the maximum rate of a person on NewStart is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of medium income poverty line.” Employment has always been the most successful path out of poverty. “Those most likely to be in poverty are people who are unemployed (61.2%) and those in a household that relies on social security as its main source of income (40.1%) particularly on the NewStart Allowance (55.1%) or Youth Allowance (50.6%).”
Not only are the poor impacted by unemployment but in recent times also our youth. Youth unemployment and intense competition in the labour has created a particularly stressful problem for thousands of university students who have spent years of their time and many thousands of dollars in tertiary education with the expectation of a suitable job being available upon its completion. Student who now struggle to find a relevant job in their field of interest become depressed, frustrated and anxious about their future. There would appear to be a problem in the alignment of our out youth’s selection of degree course with business demands for particular skills. Take for example the current skill shortage in Australia for science technology, engineering and mathematical skills. There is clearly an imbalance when law graduate unemployment is at a record high while the information technology and communications industry is struggling to rectify a 100,000 shortfall over the next 5 years. This imbalance is costing both taxpayers and students money and much potential lost economic opportunity; not to mention the additional strain put on our mental health system. As the complexities of the global market grows, so too does the complexity for how to improve the mismatch between labour market needs and tertiary education output. The same issue exists at the secondary level, where many school leavers starting trade courses are finding by the time they graduate these trade skills are no longer in demand. A good example of this was when the WA, NT & Qeensland mining boom was desperate for more skilled drivers, cooks, etc. Predictably once the bubble had burst, industry demand shifted to wanting trades to support the emergent building and housing boom in capital cities (mainly Sydney & Melbourne). The days when 12 years of education was sufficient enough to build an economy are long behind us. Australia’s latest move to a demand-driven university system has been very successful in expanding higher education opportunities. Enrolments have increased more than 26% between 2009-13, but the reward system based upon numbers enrolled rather than graduates that find a job remains flawed. Youth unemployment has not been this high since the 1992 recession.
The fundamental problem is that 18 year old school leavers are making choices about their future when they do not have all the facts available to them and cannot always be expected to interpret them correctly even when they do. Too many seem interested in prestige degrees, like law, than graduate employment rates. The solution lies first in making the right information available to school leavers and university graduates. Picking education providers based upon research output rather than their teaching quality and employment success might be a good place to start. Linking the education system to employer demands is another missing link in current source data. Another is linking the ambitions of students to business employer groups anxious to take advantage of new business opportunities. If such data linking were available, volunteers from industry would be better placed to then interpret such information (eg. the 2012 McKinsey report) in terms that our young can relate to and to provide guidance to them on making better informed decisions on the courses they take; this is especially true of those skills with great employment opportunities extending out beyond their time of initial employment.
As a long serving St Vincent de Paul volunteer helping the poor, elderly, homeless, unemployed and needy in the local Manly community, I have seen first-hand the incredible value this type of volunteer work can achieve. In this capacity I have witnessed the enormous social benefits arising from the efforts of the many generous volunteers associated a whole range of similar charities. I have been fortunate in being invited into many ordinary people’s homes (if they are fortunate enough to have one) and privileged to be able to walk in their shoes for a term, working with them in determine their best respective ways forward. Many are unemployed, lonely, depressed and frustrated. Where there is an extremely high percentage of young people without work and increased social exclusion, this frustration can lead to criminal activity and exposure to terrorist recruitment. Only a relatively small percentage are what some call “dole bludger”.
What is frustrating are the many inefficiencies and miss-directed efforts associated with current charities and other volunteer processes utilised by bodies that truly want to make a real positive contribution to effectively supporting our unemployed. As an IT professional with over 40 years of experience delivering both innovative and complex IT solutions for both business and government, it became clear to me that there had to be a better way. Since retiring I have devoted my time in determining to what extent IT innovation (namely digital disruptors) might be able to deliver a more effective solution to this challenge through self-help, aided where necessary with volunteer support, all eventually working in collaboration with a new Social Care Model from government. The only way to encourage government to join this collaboration is by way of example.
Australia’s greatest asset is unquestionably its people, the most generous, caring, multi-cultural people on the planet. Ordinary Australians’ preparedness to volunteer help for the needy in a crisis is unsurpassed. As a highly respected and unique nation, ordinary Australians are at a cross-road in their social maturity and their nation’s future opportunities, just as our unique and beautiful country faces an uncertain future. Three key principles underpin any successful solution.
- The supply of jobs available needs to ideally exceed the unemployed able to work
- The unemployed need to be motivated and aided in applying for available jobs they can do
- Where either side of the demand : supply model is weak, help will always be required to address the imbalance
To this end, the Yourself Helper website (YSH) has been designed as a free social network utility platform to facilitate “self-help” for ordinary people (including both the employed and unemployed) to be the best they can be now in making a viable contribution to society (be it in employed work, part-time, casual work or as a Volunteer). Presently the Australian unemployment level is claimed to be just over 6.3%, but more realistically it’s over 10%. What makes investment in volunteering so attractive is that this resource can come from the full spectrum of Australian society (90%), those:
- Below employment age (eg. Families and senior students)
- Unemployed (eg. University Students)
The employed numbers far exceed the total number of unemployed in Australia, so the potential exists for multiple volunteers to help our struggling unemployed (if we were all more altruistic in our intent)!
YSH is free and there is no (direct) money to be made (only social savings and employment opportunities), hence the motivation for designing this innovative IT solution is purely give back and to encourage for our greatest IT brains to focus more of their innovation also on such strategic contributions to society. Its purpose is for all ordinary Australians (the full spectrum) to identify with their authentic-side using freely available YSH content provided voluntarily from specialist SME (Subject Matter Expert) also wishing to help the unemployed in this case. The content they make available is designed, in the first instance, to optimise the extent of self-help able to be afforded to ordinary people (including both the unemployed and employed) with many well-known big social problem. As we have free will, an unemployed person needs to want to be employed and prepared to help themselves as far as practical become employed. The question arising is how to them know where to find authentic “self-help” support that isn’t about making money out of them and their predicament. In cases where the available YSH “self-help” material is seen not to be sufficient for a person’s specific problem, YSH supplements the Needy with authenticated links to additional support supplied from a bank of volunteers; helpers able and willing to assist them with their specific needs. In this next case, where a joint effort is involved, the unemployed would be expected to have expended their maximum amount of self-help available and continue to do so with guidance, support and wisdom from their volunteer helper. The vision for YSH is to contribute towards the creation of a new Social Care Model based upon volunteer participation in an innovative collaboration process of caring for the employed, especially those already struggling to make ends meet. All adhering to a process of natural vitality, maturity and caring delivered at a pace appropriate to the need. Volunteers from charities have long distributed “debit cards” support to the poor, uneducated, unemployed addressing primarily as hand-outs to met the “physical” needs of the poor. This is an honourable and necessary activity. The focus of YSH is to provide also the necessary “hand-up” to enable those in need to become self-sufficient through employment and no longer dependant upon nay handouts.
Some say a charitable “hand-out” only exacerbates people’s dependence upon support, is an investment in a entitlement culture and is “toxic” in being an accessory to the plight of the needy. Whereas a “hand-up” encourages those in need of help to first and foremost help themselves to the optiment extent possible through “self-help” support to the maximum extent possible in the first instance and then, drawing upon the wisdom, experience and empathy from those volunteers offering to support and help them out of their unemployment to provide them with a Hand-up. “Give a person a fish and feed them for a day” (a Hand-up). “Teach a person to fish and you feed them for life” (a Hand-up).
Experience has shown that over 80% of those in real physical need also display symptoms of some “mental health” illness. In many cases these problems are also associated with a broader social mindset issue which has pervaded ordinary people’s subconscious mind for most of their life. This mindset has sabotaged their life often because their conscious mind remain sceptical of any proposed solutions. Solutions they know (or their subconscious mind is hardwired as knowing) don’t work simply because they have been trying to solve their unemployment problems for a long time – with little or no success. Mental health problems are invariably associated with many personable problems like obesity, addictions, inequality, poverty, homelessness, etc. The YSH volunteer-driven approach ensures any externally supplied welfare money goes where it’s most needed and intended. Empowering more and more volunteers in this approach to Social Care makes possible additional means of self-empowerment (education, learning and guidance by others with direct real-life experiences of success) possibly new or not executed properly by the poor and unemployed. It’s that constant and persistent personal connection that makes all the difference. Even technologies such as “Mind Master”, where subliminal image flashing is adopted, has been shown to reprogram the subconscious mind of ordinary people choosing to seek help with the mental aspect of their physical problems. There are other “self-help” techniques such as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) for bringing about the required mindset shift in ordinary people; all of which have produced outstanding positive results across the globe.
In initially trialling YSH capabilities, a small demographic is to be selected (from say the Manly Northern Beaches Community) where people renowned for their generosity, well-being, community participation and volunteering can participate. Northern Beaches is purported to have the lowest level of unemployment in NSW (2015). Its a community within the electorate of both our Premier (Mike Baird) and Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) who might also be encouraged to participate in such activities, possibly learning more from the experience than those they assist.
How Yourself Helper would contribute to Working (Smarter) for the Dole
The initial trail would not have the luxury of any dependence upon government involvement (ie no tax payer outlay), its standalone benefits thereby being more contained, constrained and readily measurable. The details of the proposed Manly trial is outlined elsewhere.
Having empathised with the frustrations and problems of many able-bodied unemployed and disabled people, I observed they typically fall into one of three unemployment categories:-
- Those Active Seekers (AS) of work with all the right intensions – they may only place 4-5 applications a week but their full-time effort is devoted to seeking paid work (full-time, part-time or casual). They seek a better life to be the best they can be, whatever their persuasion.
- Those Long Term Unemployed (LTU) that are burnt out after being a category 1 for a long time and conceded to the factors causing the persistence of their unemployment (their age, culture, longevity, appearance, position, background, language difficulties, disability, etc.). They are totally disillusioned and given up (all) hope of ever getting paid work. In many cases the LTU have a resultant mental health issue (like depression & anxiety).
- Those often referred to as “Dole Bludger” (DB) tend to be the disability extortionists refusing job offers to stay on the dole because they cannot be bothered putting in sufficient effort to seek viable work, to attend interviews and re-enforce the mindset that work doesn’t suit their life style (surfing, roaming malls, watching TV, chatting with mates of a similar persuasion, etc.). These are the prime focus of current government punitive measures. A common argument put forward by DBs “Why should I work for an amount less that what I can get from Welfare by doing nothing?”
Taking each category in turn, the vision of how YSH would contribute positively to reducing unemployment, is best outlined in terms a series of generic scenarios. In each scenario the YSH business case is based upon freely supplied volunteer contributions to the unemployed, to society, to government, to employers in saving tax payers’ money and in apply any welfare outlays far more effectively. As a by-product volunteers get an even greater return from being able to live a good life and pass on a better place for their next generation. Something that currently looks unachievable.
Both the unemployed (10%), employed (80%) and many retired would be able to register as authenticated YSH users. The employed would offer a small proportion of their time (say 2 hours/week) as a volunteer to assist the unemployed find meaningful work (be it part-ime, full-time, casual, volunteer, work experience, education, etc.). The unemployed would first use YSH seeking “self-help” and be motivated to find employment based upon the best SME advice available. In case where, despite their best efforts and after exhausting all YSH has to offer by way of self-help, YSH recommends that the unemployed seek additional help from volunteers, prepared and able to help them in their journey out of poverty by finding work, as their next strategy. Specialist employment SMEs would have volunteered a range of proven content to YSH, in the form of “self-help” material relevant to both parties (unemployed & employed volunteers) which has been proven to be useful in their respective “self-help” journeys. Moral support, preparation of sample job applications, networking with known employment opportunity areas, interview techniques are but a few of the services volunteer helpers might consider. The employed helpers would receive social credit recognition for their efforts from the unemployed and the unemployed would similarly receive social credits for accepting and acting upon this help from within a common endorsed framework for effective help. These authenticated credits could be considered (by government) as part of the criteria for receiving social recognition for their efforts.
Let us quickly consider the three unemployed scenarios use of YSH:-
- Active Seeker (AS) of work scenario –after exhausting all attempts at self-help from the YSH SME material supplied, the unemployed user identifies an offer of assistance from an apparently suitable volunteer who happens to live in the same community nearby, and he/she seems to have had previous success in assisting others find work. The volunteer receives the request for assistance and agrees to spend 2 hours per week assisting the unemployed find work, say for the next 4 month. Both are excited at the prospect of the journey ahead and committed to the journey they have agreed to take together, on the understanding that the agreed help will be adopted/supported to the best of their respective ability in order for social credits to flow. Probably the first contribution by the volunteer would be an assessment of the AS self-help efforts to identify the strengths and weakness based upon their approach and ensuing outcomes. Once the AS finds a job and the employed volunteer grows in confidence, both may well continue to participate in further volunteer giveback work because of the happiness and feeling of well-being afforded to both parties. If the AS is still unsuccessful, the volunteer might be well placed to find another volunteer better suited to supporting the AS specific areas of defined and authenticated specialisations or AS weaknesses.
- Long term Unemployed (LTU) job seeker scenario – both LTU and volunteer helper inter-connect again, primarily because the helper has proven success with helping other LTU. From an examination of authenticated passed/failed efforts of the LTU seeking work, the volunteer helper identifies possible areas/gaps where improvements could be made and also work opportunities (paid and unpaid) where the LTU can make positive contributions to society, possibly as an unpaid volunteer initially. It all about building self-esteem, addressing any boredom/loneliness issues and mixing with other volunteers and LTU in a similar situation. Through the LTU mixing in a positive work environment with the gainfully employed (albeit in an unpaid volunteer capacity), a positive contribution to society can be made, not only growing self-esteem but friends, greater work opportunities and assuring dole payments continue to flow in recognition of all the good work performed. All going towards increasing the likelihood of the LTU eventually finding paid work, not with all the onus on the lone LTU but as part of a community effort. All the time social credits are being earned and with the positive feedback from the helper going towards contributing to ensure that dole payments continue to support the LTU during their journey towards finding paid work. While all along doing large amounts of unpaid volunteer work across the community are benefiting society.
- Dole Bludger (DB) scenario – DB optionally register as authenticated job seeker, in the hope that social credits can also be obtained from the Yourself Helper system in order to continue receiving dole payments (being an expert in rorting systems). As each helper volunteer links with the DB, they would quickly become alerted to the category to which their new (DB) client belongs. This realisation is made known to the DB and appropriate help is offered. Every time the DB makes any approach to receive a dole payment, the DB is either referred to YSH for help or recognised by the system only for what he/she is – a DB. This determination is only known to the DB and their helper. The DB remains unable to gain government handouts simply because the volunteer helper is unwilling to authenticate that sufficient meaningful (authenticated) work has been performed in the last period. A common complaint made by DBs is that they regard the dole as a rightful entitlement and consider, the wage offered for an advertised job, as only delivering them the delta (difference) over their dole entitlement. DB would quickly move away from using YSH, a sure indicator to Centrelink that they have been deemed by a caring volunteer to be in the DB category and therefore need to be dealt with accordingly.
Inter-volunteer helper collaboration and sharing of their clients’ employment and volunteer successes would sustain the viability of the process by increasing the relevance, depth and reach of the self-help made available to all users (volunteer and the needy alike). Similarly, the newly employed would also be encouraged to consider becoming involved as a volunteer as part of their give back and on-going contribution to the success of YSH. The need to find paid work is no longer the sole criteria for receipt of a dole payment because now a far larger work opportunity bucket exists (including volunteer work opportunities) with due recognition applied. Based upon the mutual experiences of volunteers and unemployed, the SME content contributor would become an integral part of the governance process directed at the currency of YSH content as well as resolving solution to any problems arising (FAQs).
Case of Support
Currently, there is no such umbrella Social Care System in place. No umbrella system able to quantify and qualify the social worth of volunteer work, nor any means for well-meaning ordinary Australians to support the unemployed in an on-going meaning full way. No platform to form an effective bridge for the unemployed to cross the wide gap that currently exists between being unemployed and being in paid full-time work. There is not even a means for knowing where volunteer work is required nor where social needs exist for volunteer effort nor whether voluntary assistance are sought or needed. Nor is there a public accessible system to show where future jobs are likely to be located and what types of jobs might would be on offer. Emerging sites like OneShift in Manly advertises for 34,000 employer and matched 3.8 mill to work vacancies The proposed Yourself Helper web-site is not only designed to help “Work (Smart) for the Dole” it is also designed to support solve a whole range of other big hard social problems. The YSH approach is already under consideration by Mike Baird’s Community Advisory Group as part of a proposed new eHealth Aged Care strategy for Health Management and a better aged care solution reducing the demands placed on our current Hospital system. Some of the other big hard social problems YSH can be applied to, includes – Obesity & type-2 Diabetes, Addictions, Environmental Pollution, Education, IT Innovation and other inequalities (Wealth distribution, Women, Culture, Employment), etc. The principle to YSH success:- “If the problem is self-inflicted then it’s highly likely to be self-correctable and self-preventable”.
If something as tactical and trivial as Facebook can go viral world-wide, then a well-meaning strategic IT innovation (such as Yourself Helper) surely has the potential to achieve similar success. Manly has the opportunity to take the lead in participating in a community trial of this new Caring Social Model. My preference is to conduct the initial trial of the Yourself Helper website across the Manly Northern Beaches Community mainly because of my familiarity with its strong community spirit and the generosity of its ordinary people. To this end I am also seeking across the board support for this trial in my home community of Northern Beaches (NB) and that is why I am seeking your support.
For those in the Manly area, if you would like to know more about this proposed IT innovation, please contact me at my email address: email@example.com. I would also be more than happy to meet with you in person to discuss this concept further. I am currently in the process of seeking voluntary support to develop the trial version of the app and seeking community interest in conducting the trail across the Manly community.
In taking the next “Awakening” step, you begin to consider your unique employment situation in regard whether or not you are employed (unemployed, in full/part-time work, retired, studying, volunteering). You will initially be invited to answer some common questions and issues raised on the unemployment issue and be encouraged to identify with your specific situation. Finally the questioning turns to the more important question of yourself as a social creature living in a fuzzy world of relationships with others, inextricably linking us to others – in our family, in our community, in our society and to even our spiritual connections or love of nature. Unemployment in Australia remains one of our most serious political issues, especially with our aging population, need for tax reform, end of our mining boom, difficulties in creating new employment opportunities, welfare spending, budget-deficits, etc. The 12% of Australians looking for work are struggling right across our socio-economic spectrum.
Simply “click” on the Unemployment “Awakening” button to take the next step in your self-transformation journey. Even if you already know that you do not have an employment problem, then you are a much sought after candidate as a possible volunteer for helping and caring for others that are unemployed and do need help in finding meaningful work opportunities. Better still, if you are an expert in this field you may be interested in updating or even owning the above layman and non-professional version of this Unemployment “Awareness” material and all that follows.
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