Youth bill tracks PaTH through Senate

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Youth bill tracks PaTH through Senate

The controversial Youth PaTH bill is working its way through the Senate, with the Greens and Labor continuing to oppose it. They claim it will lead to intern exploitation, intern churn, payments below minimum wage, and limited protections for participants.

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The controversial Youth PaTH bill is working its way through the Senate, with the Greens and Labor continuing to oppose it.

The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016 has been discussed in detail in the House and has already ‘survived’ a Senate committee inquiry. 

If enacted, the bill would enable 17-24 year-old would-be workers who have been in various kinds of ‘getting-into-work’ programs for six months or more to take part in internships for up to 15-25 hours a week.

This would be unpaid and the participants would not be employees of the host business, however, they would be paid by the Commonwealth ($200 a fortnight, initially). This payment would not count as ‘income’ for social security or veterans’ entitlements. 

Wage subsidy for employers


Businesses would be eligible to receive a Youth Bonus wage subsidy if they employ a young job seeker under the age of 25 who has been in employment services for at least six months.

The government argues that the bill will help young people enter the workforce and will result in a net benefit to the individual and the nation.

“Early intervention can mean the difference between a young person taking their first steps into a productive working life or entering a cycle of long-term welfare dependency. Australia cannot afford to leave thousands of young Australians to a lifetime of welfare dependency. We know once a young person is long-term unemployed their chances of successfully finding employment decline drastically,” said James Taylor MP (Liberal for Hume), the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation in a second reading speech to the House of Representatives.

The bill has also been welcomed by the NSW Business Chamber.

“The principal focus of the our advocacy efforts has been to improve outcomes for the 70% of young people who do not proceed to university after school”, said Rebecca Burdick, workforce skills policy advisor.
 
“We have long championed the adoption of programs that adequately prepare and train this cohort of young people for the world of work. An essential component of this preparation is the provision of the foundation ‘employability’ skills and we welcome Youth Jobs PaTH focus in this area”. 

Breaking welfare dependency


Data from the Department of Employment, December 2014 Labour Market Assistance Outcomes Report shows that 48.6% of job seekers who undertook unpaid work experience were in employment three months later compared to 26% of job seekers in other activities.

However, the bill has proved controversial with unions, Greens and Labor politicians opposing the unpaid elements. For instance, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said: "the Greens cannot support the youth jobs PaTH bill in its current form because of a wide range of concerns that include intern exploitation, intern churn, payments below minimum wage, and limited protections for participants.
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