Our politicians love a short, snappy slogan, and there's one that we're going to hear a lot in 2021: getting Australians "back to work".
The COVID economic recovery will be long and difficult. It could take years to regain the losses of 2020. Unemployment will remain higher, business confidence will be lower, and the way the government responds will be critical.
And already, the battle lines appear to have been drawn.
On one side, you have employers pointing to the Coronavirus Supplement providing $250 per fortnight above the previous Newstart level as the reason why people aren't returning to work. It's anecdotal and difficult to quantify, but it's a line being rolled out by businesses across a range of industries nationwide. In some instances, it could well be the case.
On the other side, you have people who have worked in some of the lowest-paying industries. If lifting the JobSeeker rate marginally above the poverty line is stopping people from looking for work, then maybe the problem isn't the welfare rate - it's the low hourly pay in some of these industries. Should we be a country that leaves low-paid workers lingering precariously above the poverty line?
You can hardly blame a local business owner for being in a panic as COVID crushes their trade. Likewise, you can hardly blame people for doing their utmost to avoid falling below the poverty line.
So what the debate needs is honesty and leadership. And that must come from the very top, from those that pull the levers of power - our federal government.
In June, National Skills Commission data showed that 72 out of 2324 business owners could genuinely cite "lack of applicants" for failing to fill a position. But the government misrepresented this data to try to set the tone for JobSeeker to be reduced, which ultimately happened.
Labour market economists have searched for evidence to back up the "job snobs" assertion, but have come up empty, most recently in a Senate inquiry into the Coronavirus Supplement. It leaves you with the impression that the government is eager to see the back of the increased rate as soon as possible.
Throw into the mix industrial relations reform next year - where the "better off overall test" is set to be weakened and the definition of "casual work" could be expanded, with "flexibility" the driving force - then insecure work could increase rapidly.
Is having the threat of poverty, combined with watered down protections, the best way to get Australia back to work?
At the height of COVID, another phrase was dominant: "we're all in this together". Let's not lose sight of that.
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