Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

The myth of the “new breed of bludger”

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Last month the pictures of two young women were splashed across the front pages of various News Corp publications. The papers described them as the “new breed of bludger”. The accompanying articles demonised the women and suggested that all those who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) have only themselves to blame for their situation.

The articles claimed that these young women had no interest in working, or getting an education, and would rather “chill at Maccas” than get an office job. Some outlets, like TEN News, ran headlines such as “Australia’s Army of NEETs” implying that these young people were an organised force hell-bent on doing nothing productive and ruining the economy.

It was later revealed that one of the young women featured actually worked at McDonalds, somewhat undermining the credibility of these articles.

Despite the fact that the young women weren’t the bludgers that News Corp had painted them as, the media had clear motives for demonising young people. It was no coincidence that the stories came out at the same time as the government put forward plans to slash youth welfare.

To win support for harsh cuts the government and their friends in the media need to portray young people as the problem rather than as victims of a vicious system. The truth is that young people are struggling to find work while education and training options are also limited.

For a start there are simply not enough jobs to go around. The Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that all up, just over three million people in Australia are currently looking for work, when underemployment is included with unemployment. At the same time there are only 166,800 jobs currently advertised nationwide. That equates to something like 19 people per available job!

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released a report called “Investing in Youth: Australia”. That report revealed that Australia now has over half a million young people (up to the age of 29) who are not in education, employment or training.

The OECD report pointed to some of the issues that the sensationalist News Corp articles chose to ignore. It indicated that more than half of those classified as NEETs were either looking for work or that if they were unable to look it was for good reason. Some of those reasons include childcare commitments or health issues.

The report noted that there is little evidence that work for the dole programs lead to people actually getting jobs, and that proper training programs are much more successful at achieving this aim. It’s clear that the current set up, where “jobseeker providers” profit from people not having jobs, is a farce. Dodgy government training schemes like PaTh are also a scam.

On the issue of education, young people also face an uphill battle. Leaving aside exorbitant student fees that can saddle people with a lifetime of debt, getting into university doesn’t guarantee you a job. Data released last year found that only 68% of graduates were able to find a job within four months of graduating.

In recent years governments have also closed TAFEs and slashed funding in both the TAFE and university sectors. This, coupled with the fact that starting salaries are the lowest on record, paints a bleak future, even for those young people who do acquire qualifications.

Unfortunately, the situation facing young people is likely to get worse. We are now seeing the end of the mining boom, and car manufacturing will wind up entirely in Australia in the coming years. This alone will result in tens of thousands of job losses. When taken together with a property bubble that threatens to burst it is clear that there are no real plans to create jobs on the horizon.

It is the chaos of the profit-driven system that lies at the heart of the unemployment crisis, not any sort of “new breed of bludger”. Only by removing the profit motive and planning the economy can problems like unemployment be solved.

Alongside sharing out available work (without a loss in pay), socialists demand that the big corporations are taken into public ownership under democratic control. Once the key parts of the economy are in public hands, a plan could be devised to create proper jobs with decent wages, and to make direct investment where it is most needed.

By Kat Galea

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