High rates of COVID-19 welfare may be preventing some people from seeking work when it is available.
High rates of COVID-19 welfare may be preventing some people from seeking work when it is available.

WELFARE WEANING: There’s jobs out there, no one wants them

IT"S common knowledge on the Northern Rivers there are many jobs out there in tourism, hospitality, retail and agriculture going begging and no one to fill them.

We all know of people on JobKeeper and JobSeeker who don't feel compelled to return to their shitty, low paid, casual, part-time or insecure work because it's not worth their while.

In some instances, I don't blame them, as they were probably the first people laid off when the pandemic hit.

Faced with going back to work for an hourly rate that's less than what you can get from JobKeeper and Jobseeker, what would you do?

Although the government is trying to wean people off the two main welfare payments, by lowering the COVID-19 supplement, the largesse is set to continue for the next few months.

It could set up a summer of discontent for many businesses on the Northern Rivers, who want to put on more people, expand their hours or days of operation, but simply can't because they can't find enough staff.

Think back to the last school holidays there wasn't a motel bed to be had in the region and restaurants were booked up days in advance.

What's it going to like during the Christmas-New Year period?

Of course, this is not a one size fits all generalisation, but it's a common enough story that we have all seen or heard.

Overall, there is no doubt the government needed to step in and support the economy when hundreds of thousands of jobs went in the first few weeks of COVID-19.

But now we definitely have a two-speed economy with some businesses unable to survive without the government support and others looking to hire and expand services but being held back by a lack of staff.

There are several other issues at play on the Northern Rivers.

The closure of our borders, both internationally and domestically, means there isn't the usual influx of casual labour.

Rental accommodation is also bloody scarce.

It's taken up by the many film crews, road workers and people actually staying put because of the pandemic.

After all this is over we shouldn't go back to business as usual.

Either the minimum wage needs to go up by a whole lot or basic welfare should provide a standard of living above the poverty line. Perhaps both.

And if businesses can't lure staff off welfare, maybe they should look at lifting their hourly rate or provide greater training and career opportunities for staff who stay loyal.


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