The manipulation of government statistics has to be taken into account when looking at unemployment. Officially unemployment in Bendigo is at 4.46%, supposedly lower than the Victorian average of 5.54%. But to be counted as ‘employed’ you actually only need to work for one hour a week!
In reality, there aren’t enough jobs to go around in Bendigo. There are about 6000 people chasing a mere 400 jobs.
Unemployment and underemployment are big issues, not just in Bendigo but in all regional centres. It is actually the main issue of concern for many Bendigonians who find themselves in precarious work with little recourse to demand more hours. Young people suffer disproportionately.
During the last election both the Liberals and Labor acknowledged there was a problem, but neither party are doing anything of substance to address the issues.
More and more companies are employing people on a casual basis in order to avoid their obligations. Many young people in the city are forced to accept work where they are paid ‘cash in hand’ with no legal rights. Many more work several jobs just to make ends meet.
The jobs crisis also affects the many migrant and refugee families who have settled in Bendigo. Like young people, this section of workers are some of the most exploited, with bosses trying to take advantage of their lack of experience.
Those lucky enough to find a job often find themselves putting up with underpayments and poor conditions. They fear destitution if they leave.
There is a desperate need for a trade union led campaign for regional jobs, against casualisation, and for proper pay. The union movement should outline a plan for regional infrastructure works and fight for the major parties to implement it. Such a campaign must link the issue of employment to the need to change the system itself.
By Johan Rivas