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Jul 30, 2014

Rundle: how job application scheme will kill the Coalition's base

The government wants job-seekers to apply for 40 jobs every month. All well and good, but what about those businesses that have to process them all? Crikey's writer-at-large crunches the numbers.


The Abbott government’s new scheme to compel the unemployed to apply for 40 jobs per month will add a minimum of six work hours per month in added costs to businesses, analysis by Crikey has shown. For businesses that are actually advertising vacancies, that cost will skyrocket, potentially to dozens of hours per month — crippling the ability of small businesses to conduct their principal activities.

The figure varies according to the potential amount of time each employer is likely to spend considering applications, and how many businesses not currently receiving advertised vacancies will receive and process applications. Were one to consider only those businesses actually advertising vacancies, the costs rise dramatically, especially for small and micro-businesses.

Crikey conducted the analysis based on the recent report that job-seekers may be fined or have their benefits cut off for sending out mass or spam applications, and will need to prove that they are seeking individual work. The situation is particularly dire in high-unemployment states, such as Tasmania, home state of the champion of the scheme, Senator Eric Abetz.

Australia currently has around 830,000 people currently receiving unemployment benefit, which would suggest a raw figure of 33.2 million job applications being made per month under the new scheme.

However, a yet-to-be specified number of people will be exempt from this requirement because they are undergoing training and there will be a certain amount of non-fulfilment — so let’s bang this down to a mere 25 million applications. Let’s now assume that people send these far and wide — full letter and CV applications as required by the new conditions — to all employers.

There are around 2 million registered businesses in Australia, but many of these are sole proprietors billing as companies or multiple shell companies around a single real business. Let’s assume 1 million employment entities. By this absurdly abstract raw count, every business would receive 25 extra applications per month.

If we assume that every application will be taken seriously — and that is surely part of the social contract the government is proposing — then every application will take, say, 20 minutes to process, or 8.3 hours a month, a full working day. Assuming these are being handled by an HR staffer on $50,000, that would be $200/month, or $50/week in extra business costs.

But of course, these things won’t fall equally. Many of these applications from minimally qualified applicants with little work experience will go to the entry-level service sector, dominated by small (under 19 employees) and micro (under four employees) businesses.

Let’s look at Tasmania, with the highest unemployment rate. The state has 18,500 unemployed looking for full-time work, who would generate 740,000 applications per month. It has around 25,000 businesses in the service sector — but assuming sole traders and shells, we can bust that down to 15,000 companies. Since small businesses employ 45% of the overall workforce, let’s say they’ll receive 300,000 of these applications (in reality, it will likely be more).

Thus by this reckoning, every operating small business in Tasmania — whether it has advertised or not — will receive an average of 20 job applications per month, generating, by the implied social contract, 400 minutes, or 6.67 hours of extra work per month. That is less than the nationwide business average, but we’re talking about companies with one or two employees. Even if they don’t spend a great deal of time on these applications — and many, being decent people, will give them a read — the actual task of processing them will chew up time in a business day.

But the position gets terrifying when you limit this process to companies that are actually advertising vacancies. Seek.com.au currently has 78 vacancies in various service and unskilled sectors for the whole of Tasmania. Let’s multiply that by three for other sources — local papers, word of mouth, milk bar windows — and assume that those 234 vacancies receive two-thirds, 67%, of the applications. That is half a million applications per month for 234 jobs, or 2136 applications per job.

Note that even if we radically reduce this in favour of the government’s scheme — halve the number of unemployed actually receiving the dole, halve the number applying for these jobs, keep the generous job number the same — then we get 500 applications per job per month. Each application considered properly would add 10,000 minutes, or 167 hours, per month to staffing duties.

Even what will actually happen — staff giving a cursory glance to see if applicants are eligible, furiously clearing inboxes, chucking letters, hustling people off the phone — can be costed at, say, three minutes an application, or 1500 minutes, or 25 hours, per month. To go to the very basement of simply fending off job-seekers, let’s average a minute per application, or 500 minutes — and we’re back to 8.3 hours a month again, simply to deal with an extra imposition that the government has placed on a small business.

Yes, there’s a lot of assumptions in here. But none of them are unreasonable assumptions, and in every case, we’ve adjusted in the government’s favour.

What it shows is several things: first, the scheme won’t work if it assumes that every application will be taken seriously — and thus, it’s a cynical betrayal of the unemployed, especially as multiple rejections or non-responses is a key factor in grinding people down into hopelessness. Second, the scheme works against a basic principle of HR, which is that you design a job ad to discourage those people who simply aren’t qualified for applying — a successful ad is one in which everyone who applies could potentially move to the interview stage. Third, it is far more costly — even crippling — to small business, as compared to big business, many of which have HR departments with spare capacity. Fourth, that effect is magnified for areas with high unemployment due to the structural effects of peripheralisation, such as Tasmania, rather than some imagined work-shyness of the local populace.

Genius, really. You couldn’t get a more-rusted on sector of Liberal voters than small business proprietors, but Senator Erica and the rest seem determined to pry them loose. Hitherto, they had nowhere to go. Now, somewhere up in Coolum, Clive Palmer is riding the T-Rex and laughing his nads off.

*With additional research by Karen Palenzuela


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42 thoughts on “Rundle: how job application scheme will kill the Coalition’s base

  1. seriously?

    This scheme is either the height of stupidity or a masterstroke,

    On the stupid side, the idea of making unemployed people apply for an average two jobs a day must have been conceived by someone completely removed from reality if they think the world can actually work this way. The only way to (try to) fulfil this obligation is to apply for many jobs you aren’t qualified for (I’m not even talking about jobs that you would prefer not to do). How can this help get people in work? And yes, employers will be flooded with a mass of “junk” applications no matter what spin Eric and Joe put on it. Plenty of crap comes through on the internet as it is.

    The genius behind the scheme is whilst the coalition may LOOK like they are trying to simply get people back to work, it will merely result in many, many, unemployed people who are genuinely seeking, being disqualified from receiving benefits as it is far too onerous to comply with – if you are trying to genuinely comply with the scheme that is (and frankly it is just plain dumb).

    I won’t go into the waste of resources in bureaucrats having to administer a scheme to see if people made 40 GENUINE JOB APPLICATIONS A MONTH WITH THE ASSOCIATED BADGERING OF EMPLOYERS TO CHECK FROM THEIR SIDE THE BONAFIDES. Good one Eric.

  2. David Hand

    I guess you are saying that the scheme is a stupid waste of time, Guy. Here’s a surprise. I agree with you.

    Your own analysis is great for a comedy skit or a bit of revelry down at the pub on the back of a beer mat. The short answer is that businesses will not give each applicant 20 minutes. For unskilled jobs, they will select one of the first 10 applicants and reject every subsequent application regardless of merit. Most applicants will simply get automated rejection emails.

    This may well prove the government’s policy to be unworkable and stupid, which it almost certainly is. But small and medium businesses are pretty good at devoting time to the important stuff like serving customers and collecting payments.

  3. Terrence John Snedden

    The Abbott government’s punitive demands on the unemployed further victimises the majority of citizens unfortunate enough to have been put in this unwanted predicament by circumstances beyond their control. The proposed measures are part of a deliberate strategy designed to be cruel, degrading and demoralising to the unemployed, the sick, the young, the aged. Equally however these measures are designed to induce compliance by way of anxiety and fear among those citizens presently outside these socio-economic parameters to forgo their rights to justice, fairness and any expectations that threaten the interests of multi-national corporations and wealthy elites. To those citizens that believe they are safe, protected from the mistreatment being metered out by the Abbott government, listen carefully for the crack of the whip around your ears. Wait for that late night knock at the door. It’s coming. The upside is that unless Murdoch/Abbott decide that Australian citizens are incapable of determining national priorities and refuse to hold democratic elections – the hurt and pain imposed by this regime can be ended in just over 2 years. An excruciating reality but not devoid of hope, yet.

  4. rossco

    The whole idea of having to apply for 40 jobs a month is completely dumb, and just imposes an unreasonable burden on the unemployed and employers. But in looking at the number of employers affected we should also include the public sector, including local government. They will also have to deal with unsolicited, unwanted and unsuitable applicants.
    I suggest the unemployed include in their 40 applications every LNP MP, every month. See how they like it.

    Although I did notice that Abbott is now saying this is just a proposal in a draft policy being put out for discussion. I think that is code for saying we will drop this as soon as we can.

  5. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Based on Crikey figures Australia Post will gain a windfall of nearly $20 million per month in stamp revenue. Add to this the costs of paper, envelopes, writing implements or printer ink at a conservative, no pun intended, at 25% of mailing costs add another $5 million, so total cost of $300 million p.a. just to send the letters. Without a single response from an angry prospective employer

    Yep, we have a bunch of mental giants running the country.

  6. Andrew Lindsay

    What about the other direct costs to the worker on benefit payments? For 40 letters a month, what is that in postage and printing costs? Lets say every letter is a 1 page letter and a 3 page CV, printing costs etc are going to be a significant cost for people. Also, how is the government going to track that people are sending the applications? Does everyone receiving an application also have to log that they have received an application? If they do, then I would be applying to become an office worker for the PM’s office.

  7. Sammy Banfield

    I have doesn’t a whole day driving around to drop of resumes & fill in application forms at aged care facilities. Petrol costs money that young unemployed people under 30 will to be able afford to chase up job opportunities. It already pushes me to my limit…

  8. Iain MacPhail

    Only a privileged person who never had to make a cold call job application could come up with this dumb, insensitive, and thoroughly negative scheme. Abetz wants to “rub their noses in it”; a punishment that benefits no-one.
    I worked for fifty years on short-term contracts, and I never fully coped with the responses elicited by an ill-directed job application. I know many literate, sensitive, and able unemployed folk who will be even further crushed by this senseless dictate.
    Perhaps the Senator could spend some time on the phones of Lifeline, or Beyond Blue.

  9. CML

    Good one, Guy – at least for a laugh! If you didn’t do that, you’d cry over the stupidity of it all.

    Just proves that the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum!!!

  10. Stuart Coyle

    This does not address the problem of under employment at all.
    There are many working in highly casualised industries who need assistance for a month or so between jobs. If they are forced to wait six months for the next pay, their only other option is to demand a higher pay rate from employers to cover the time between jobs.

    I spent 20 years working in the entertainment industry, this is going to make it very hard for that industry as well as for hospitality. I found it difficult keeping a good casual crew because of the seasonality of the work. if people cannot get any assistance in the quiet times they will be leaving the industry for some (probably non-existent) full time jobs.
    There is no point applying for 40 jobs a month when you are a stage hand, there are not even 4 decent employers in any large city for you. These sorts of industries are going to lose all their skilled people.

  11. tonysee

    Given that it’s not just bleedin’ heart liberals pointing out how crazy this policy is, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s all about ideology.

  12. Brett Connery

    Luke Hartsuyker owns a business in Coffs Harbour called “The Clog Barn”. I suggest that all of Australia’s unemployed send their 40 applications per month to him there, and see how long it takes Mr Hartsuyker to wake up to himself…

  13. Yclept

    So why doesn’t Abbott just introduce some new legislation to say he can machine gun the unemployed, the poor, the sick, the asylum seekers and any other non Liberal voters to get it over with quickly, instead of dragging out the deaths with this ideology driven torture. Or would that suggest he has compassion? A big no-no…

  14. Mark Egelstaff

    While I agree with the concept of the article, it completely ignores the fact that some job seekers already have to apply for up to 20 jobs a month – it can only be presumed that the people who the new arrangements will apply to will be these same people.

    So for a true and accurate representation, you need to halve all the figures in your article, as half of your proposed work is already being done.

    Seeing as how that work is already being done, I’d be very surprised if there isn’t some quantified research somewhere of how much time is already taken up with responding to applications.

  15. Nevil Kingston-Brown

    Don’t you realise that businesses will be forced to hire more people to deal with all the applications they receive? Soon all the unemployed will be employed answering each other’s applications for jobs and Australia will be a 0% unemployment paradise.

  16. Rubio Diego

    These viscous ideologues just keep pushing the boundaries to see how far they can push the electorate. In the process they are looking like idiots whose electoral fortunes can only fall further!

  17. Paul Bugeja

    clearly Guy hasn’t had to apply for a job for a long time – the chances of even getting a reply from an employer you send an application to are negligible – as if they are even going to put in a millisecond of time looking at job seeker apps.

  18. zut alors

    This policy is perfectly consistent with the impracticality and short-term thinking of many Abbot government agendas.

  19. Maisie

    Re Yclept, can I suggest in the interests of a more compassionate approach that, instead of machine guns, Abbott sends every unemployed, poor, sick Australian and every refugee a copy of Phillips Nitschke’s Peaceful Pill book and provide subsidised Nembutal so they can all commit rational suicide. But seriously, these policies are a vicious and stupid extension of a system that has been dehumanising job seekers for years. Some years ago (when Howard was still Prime Minister) my daughter faced the bizarre situation of having been offered a full-time job with the Department of Human Services in Canberra but while she waited for them to arrange for her to start (she was available to start immediately, have just returned from overseas), Centrelink still required her to apply for 20 jobs per week. As a well educated young woman who had family support she survived the degrading experience of dealing with Centrelink, but I imagine it can be literally soul destroying form many people who simply can’t find work in this economy.

  20. Liz Connor

    I’m a Tasmanian, but don’t blame me! I’ve never voted for Eric and I never will.

  21. Brad Knox

    It’s almost exactly like Abetz & Hartsuyker came up with the “they should re-double their efforts!” mantra and just doubled the existing quota. That seems to be about the limits of their arithmetic though — they didn’t even think through what 800,000 odd people applying 40 times over for 150,000 odd jobs would look like.

  22. 4567

    As nutty as buying boats from the people smugglers to “stop the boats”.

    Even if “Abbott is now saying this is just a proposal in a draft policy” – and some of these ludicrous ideas are shelved (for another day) – how can anyone with a semblance of conscience ever trust the party that actually came up with this unfair proposal?

  23. Nomad

    Surely the parliamentary calendar is wrong and the fruitcakes reckon it is 1st April every day.
    Joe – for marks for striving for economic goals (however loopy). But you fail miserably in terms of social goals. Get some balance. Maybe the mining tax was not such a bad idea, but I know that you will never admit it.
    Double dissolution please.

  24. Euan J Thomas

    This policy is clearly a brain-snap, an attempt to move the focus off the terrible budget and onto the “evil dole bludgers”. The problem is it has backfired and backfired badly. Keep it up boys as you’re all doing a great job of showing how stupid youse all are.

  25. Nomad

    To say nothing of the knighthoods ….

  26. Hoojakafoopy

    Ha ha! Laughing Clive’s happy ‘nads cleaving to the back of the T-rex..!

  27. Andrew Dolt

    OMG I’m channelling Guy Rundle. Before I read this article I had already sent my job application off to Erica via GetUp’s link. https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/newstart/apply-to-senator-abetz/senator-abetz-is-welcoming-your-applications

    “Dear Senator Erica Betz,

    I would like to make a pointless job application for a job with you to assist your government with the very important task of annoying business.

    First let me assure you that the government is already on the nose with the voters of Australia, and your contribution to its slide in the opinion polls is not really needed.

    On the plus side however, your completely idiotic idea will go a long way towards getting your government on the nose with business, which will now be saddled with sifting through thousands of job applications from completely unsuitable applicants. Your government has managed to annoy absolutely everyone who might normally be on side, and now you have added business to that list. Way to go, Erica!! Let me assist!!”

  28. AR

    RubiD – perfect pun, even if unintended, “These viscous ideologues“, esp for the greezy, oleaginous & oily EricA.
    Surely serious discussion of this idiocy misses the point – it is not about unemployed people finding non existent jobs but posturing, preening & pontificating to the brain dead morons who voted for them.
    There is no example anywhere, and every western country which fell to the rabid right in the 80/90s tried, of ‘grovel-for-food’ schemes changing the U/E stats.
    It has been acknowledged by every study done, in UK & OZ (the US as always is off planet in such things, of no relevance)that it is about making those people with jobs believe something is being done, reality doesn’t get a look in.
    Tories don’t find people being poor but they object to them not being sufficiently miserable, at least a much as they are in their own resentful, unfulfilled lives.

  29. AR

    … also “tories don’t mindpeople being poor”.

  30. klewso

    “Crush the poor, buzz on the whine!”?

  31. jimmila555

    Thanks Crikey,
    As a small business owner I’d figured this out within minutes of hearing the proposition. This is a plainly unworkable idea, and at a time when Government is doing near-nothing to facilitate job growth. Whatever the Government thinks it will save in welfare, it will have to spend in Law-enforcement, and Health(/Mental health). Get ready for Insurance premiums to rise further ..yet again.

    The architects of this idea clearly don’t have the first clue of what it is like to manage a business, let alone to manage a family on welfare. This is just plain mean.

  32. Trog Sorensen

    How can a government incompetent enough to come up with something like this, be even remotely qualified to frame a budget.

    Mind blowing.

  33. Itsarort

    ‘Clive is riding the T-Rex..’. Is this a play on ‘Ride a White Swan’ Guy? And Coolum, like ‘the people of the Beltane’, is full of drug induced May Day festival hippies, or am I just reading too much into it?

  34. graybul

    Awarding a satirical ‘commendation’ Guy. Pity left out black and white illustration of good Tasmanian Senator . . . staring at Big Joe’s cigar smoking toe!!
    Tried to tell tory neighbour Duke, ’bout your piece . . waste of time. Duke (full name ‘Heart-Sucker’) thinks Good Senator and Big Joe’s cigar smoking toe, fully in touch with Tasmanian priorities keeping young lay-a-bouts off streets. “Teach the buggers to write”!!!

  35. Ian Roberts

    You may be missing the point (their point – News-Lib Govt’s point). They’re not trying to get people employed. They’re trying to get them off benefits. This regime is designed to breach benefit recipients.

  36. Anon

    Pedantic, Balwyn and Andrew Lindsay,

    Have either of you applied for a job, or been involved in a hiring process, in the past decade? No one applies for jobs by mailing applications anymore. It’s all done online.

  37. Chris Hartwell

    I tried mailing an application once. They did a return to sender with a link included.

  38. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Humble apologies Anon and Chris Hartwell. But this Government is taking me back to the good old days with knighthoods, copper wire comms, scrapping welfare for bludgers; more riches for the rich.
    They were such happy days that I quite forgot which century I was in!!!!

  39. zut alors

    Pedantic, I’m looking forward to the Communications Minister Turnbull reintroducing telegrams.

  40. The Pav

    My objection to the Abbot Govt is not amatter of Left/right but that it is
    Wedded to ideology in lieu of common himanity and common sense
    Proposing stupid ideas and trying to pass it of as considered and thought out policy
    Just getting the facts wrong…inantely dishonest

  41. Malcolm Street

    Ian – got it in one! The unemployed are moral degenerates and the government’s duty is to ensure they suffer.

  42. david mitchell

    Easy, just send all applications for a job to their local member of parliament each month.

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