Newstart hell – why the Australian government’s Newstart job search policy is broken & how can we fix it

Recently I was flicking through the TV channels after the news had finished when I saw the number of people here in Australia on Newstart Allowance. I then heard a statistic at a breakfast event I attended in Melbourne where something like 20M+ applications are received in Australia each year.
Now I’m not going to go into rate of pay and the political debate (or the lack of) on this, nor am I going to get on my soap box around the number of long term unemployed. What I am going to harp on about is this.
According to January 2019 data found here, there were 410,438 Newstart Allowance (NSA) job seekers. That is right, over 400K people receiving an allowance and are required to search for work. Now, the government mandates that NSA job seekers must then demonstrate that they have applied for 20 or more positions each month to continue receiving this allowance.
400,000 people x 20 jobs x 12 months = 96M job applications per annum OR 8M per month. This does not include those part timers or those incapacitated on Newstart, these are the people required to look for work whilst receiving Newstart.
Think about this for a minute or two. Sure, not all these folks are applying digitally, some of these will be phone calls, direct emails, or the rare door knock or cheeseboard out front of a building. The next time you think “why has this person applied to my job when they don’t meet the requirements” this in part will be to blame. I’m not providing excuses here for all those poorly written advertisements either, they too are also to blame, but 8M applications a month?
Another quick calculation of 8M x 6 seconds (average time to review a CV apparently) = 48M second OR 13,333 hours which equals approximately FIVE, that’s right FIVE full time equivalent employees.
Surely there is a better way to do this? I mean don’t we have a productivity commission?
The government does have a number of JobActive service suppliers and the infamous website. Trying to find data on the number of placements across these channels is somewhat challenging. My own experience with JobActive providers in WA has been really poor, which has led me to not use them at all.
I’m sure there are great ones out there, but when I’ve spoken to my colleagues around the country, the feedback is often the same. Poor service, no follow up, and a lack of understanding when it came to meeting the job brief.
So, what’s my solution? Sadly, due to our low population numbers and therefore inability to scale and become a unicorn company, my idea is this.
The government mandates that all those who are receiving a Newstart allowance create an online profile which consists of an individual’s contact details, work experience, skills etc. Think a ‘LinkedIn profile’ for those on the NSA.
Employers are then able to perform searches for people in that database to directly contact. Stipulate to employers that as part of their recruitment process, they need to search this database for suitable people. Heck they could even develop a product similar to SEEK Premium Talent Search so when an employer advertises a job on, it shortlists suitable candidates.
What would be the benefits of being more proactive?

  • The government could easily audit who is using the platform and who is not from both job seekers and employers’ perspectives.
  • It could incentivise employers for using the platform.
  • Potentially remove the poor performing job active providers to save further tax payers dollars.
  • Improve the candidate experience.
  • Increase employer productivity.
  • Further reduce the unemployment rate.
  • Help companies increase diversity hiring including refugees.
  • Save the tax payer gazillions of dollars.

The current approach has been modelled around post and pray, reactive hiring models which is outdated, inefficient and costly.
If this is really about getting people back into work, then shouldn’t we be using or developing technology to help do this in a more proactive and efficient way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Would my idea work? Or is it half baked?

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2 Responses to “Newstart hell – why the Australian government’s Newstart job search policy is broken & how can we fix it”

  1. Shireen DuPreez

    You make some great points Stan. I think the government processes for job seekers also needs to be adapted to the market – which is most job openings are found in the hidden job market (unadvertised positions). Job seekers should spend more of their time seeking roles in the hidden job market rather than ticking boxes with advertised positions, this would line up with the realities of the job market.

    • Stan Rolfe

      Thanks for your comment Shireen. I would hope the job active providers were doing this. Teaching folks on NS how to navigate the hidden job market.
      Or perhaps there is potential there to create am offering to the government where all NS registrations must complete a 2 hour learning session on uncovering the hidden job market funded by the government of course.


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