The Turnbull government has announced that it will be proceeding with the “Prepare, Train and Hire (PaTH)” internship program that was first announced in last year’s budget.
Under the scheme, unemployed people up to the age of 25 will work 15-25 hours a week for a private business as an “intern”. While the minimum wage is currently $17.70 per hour, the interns will be paid approximately $4 per hour. The interns will not receive the same rights and conditions as regular workers, having no access to sick leave, annual leave or superannuation.
The government says that this program is necessary to create jobs for young people. The most likely outcome of this program however will be the displacement of living wage jobs with low paid, temporary positions. It will be used by employers to take advantage of young people seeking much needed work experience.
In addition to being allowed to pay well below the minimum wage, businesses that take on PaTH interns will receive a payment of $1000. There will be no compulsion for bosses to continue employing interns after the training period of between 4 and 12 weeks is up. Rather, they will most likely move on to the next young person and the next wage subsidy.
The roll out of the PaTH program, which aims to further demonise the unemployed, is happening at the same time as an attempt by the Fair Work Commission to slash weekend penalty rates for retail, fast food and hospitality workers. This is no coincidence. It is part of an ideological and economic attack on young and working class people. It is part of an attempt to make working class people pay for the looming economic slowdown.
While young people are being asked to make sacrifices, companies are being rewarded. This is despite the fact that companies have been laying people off and cutting hours, therefore creating the problem of unemployment in the first place! The logic is perverse.
In order to carry out such a swindle the government needs to portray young people as problematic. They suggest that they lack motivation, and pretend that they are just not trying hard enough to find work. Supposedly, PaTH will push them in the right direction and connect them with employers who will provide them with endless opportunities. This is a fairy tale.
The issue is not that young people are lazy. The issue is that the capitalist system refuses to create jobs or to provide young people with a real future. It is true that there is an issue with unemployment, but this is not the fault of young people. It the fault of a system that throws people on the scrap heap as a way of protecting profits. The only real way to deal with unemployment is create jobs on a different basis.
We should not have to rely on profiteers to provide us with work. Instead jobs should be created to deal with social needs. As an example, there are currently over 100,000 homeless people across Australia. On top of this there are an increasing number of households who experience rent and mortgage stress, which puts them at increased risk of becoming homeless in the future.
A massive expansion of public housing would help deal with this social crisis. Such an expansion would not only get people off the streets but it would create tens of thousands of jobs in construction and related industries. Through this you could provide thousands of young people with properly paid apprenticeships.
We need an economic alternative to the system that creates unemployment and then proposes dodgy low wage internships as a fix. It is actually an indictment of the capitalist system itself that employers need to be handed free money to hire people. Socialists say that if this system can’t provide us with decent jobs and a real future, then we don’t need this system.
We should take the decisions about who is given jobs and training out of the hands of profiteers. We need a democratically planned economy where we focus investment where it is needed, rather than where the profits are made.
Far from helping, PaTH will only act as another hindrance to young people who are looking for work and training. It should be scrapped. Alongside campaigning to scrap the other anti-worker measures put forward by this government, the trade union movement should demand that real jobs on proper pay are created for young people. Through collective action this can be won.
By Meredith Jacka