Alarm sounds over long-term jobless

TASMANIA’S long-term unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in more than a decade, prompting urgent calls for reform from the community, business and government sectors.

The number of Tasmanians out of work for at least 12 months ballooned by almost 35 per cent in the year to July 2014.

Data released late last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed about 6000 Tasmanians had been jobless for at least a year – equating to 2.4 per cent of the total labour force.

The figure was far higher than any other state or territory, and almost double the national average.

About 3000 people had been out of work for at least two years.

The data also highlighted a 2.1 per cent drop in employment across Launceston and the North-East  over the same period.

Participation rates in the two regions slipped backwards by 1 percentage point.

Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Tony Reidy said the figures were staggeringly bad.

‘‘We have known the number of long-term unemployed people in Tasmania is much higher than the national average but these figures are a shock and surprise even for me,’’ Mr Reidy said.

‘‘It’s deeply concerning and should serve as a real wake-up call to everyone involved with driving employment.’’

Mr Reidy said the state and federal governments must rethink their suite of job creation initiatives, including the Work for the Dole scheme to be phased in across Northern Tasmania next month.

‘‘Work for the Dole is a failed policy that is expensive for governments to administer and manifestly will not work,’’ he said.

‘‘Just one in five people who go through the program are still in work two months after gaining employment,’’ Mr Reidy said.

‘‘Whereas three out of five people provided with intensive training and support are still employed some six months on from securing a job.’’

Mr Reidy said cutting unemployment benefits to young people for six months each year as a ‘‘perverse incentive’’ to find work was also bound to fail.

‘‘We need constructive, evidence-based programs to provide support and transitioning to employment and good, fiscal levels from state and federal governments to get the economy moving,’’ he said.

The state’s overall unemployment rate remains steady at 7.6 per cent. 

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