Archive for January 11, 2003

Hint to South Koreans: The

January 11, 2003

Hint to South Koreans: The guns in “Counterstrike” aren’t real. Huk~! You can’t use them to fight North Korea. Babos. o.O

Silent Running admits what the

January 11, 2003

Silent Running admits what the pacifists always knew – pro-war Bloggers are soulless demons who shy away from sunlight.

Unemployment, Mutual Obligation, HECS and

January 11, 2003

Unemployment, Mutual Obligation, HECS and more!

The choice for the young people of Dumbleyung, WA is pretty simple. Either you take over the old man’s farm (or work for someone else’s), or make a clean break and try your luck in “the city”. Obviously I chose option #2, with mixed results. After one mind-numbingly boring semester of studying electronic engineering, I landed a job as junior sales assistant in a retail franchise.

It was something that I was good at, and after my manager fell pregnant and resigned, I was promoted to store manager at the tender age of 18 (it was a pretty small organisation). I didn’t really care that the “Youth Wage Policy” meant I got paid about half what the old manager got, I liked my job and the place was pretty successful. Of course, when I turned 20, I was sacked and replaced by another 17 year old. They say that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, this was one of those jobs where a monkey is just fine, thanks.

There is no unemployment in Dumbleyung. If you lose your job, you go down the pub and talk to a friend of your Dad’s cousin who will tell you to turn up at 5am tomorrow, Mulesing knife in hand. “The Dole” is for lazy pricks who have never picked up a shovel in their life. Very few people are unemployed for long in small country towns, most simply leave if they can’t find work.

Not wanting to be a “dole bludger” I did what a lot of Aussie kids do when they don’t know where their life is headed: Went Overseas. I sold all my posessions, took my savings and spent a year travelling the USA. When I reached New York City, I found (illegal) work as a manager of a youth hostel. For nine months I processed reservations, kept the books, and generally ran the office. I had the time of my life, but my status as an illegal alien eventually scared me into coming home.

I was too old for unskilled work, why hire me when a 17 year old kid is half the price? My international experience counts for nothing here, and my previous experience was in an industry that relies almost exclusively on Youth Wages for its labour force. Despite a gift for numbers, experience in Accounting, and programming in Basic on my Amstrad 6128 from age 8, no degree means no job in today’s Australia. After seeking work for the required period, my mutual obligation began.

I wanted to work, so I opted to join a “work for the dole” program. Administration was my chosen field, so I was signed up for a 2-week “Adminstration Skills” workshop. “Great!” I thought, “Free Training!”.

Lesson 1: Turning on your computer.
Lesson 2: How to find the little button that launches Microsoft Word.
Lesson 3: Learning decimals and fractions.

No, I am not making this up. After the compulsory two weeks, I changed my mutual obligation to “University Studies”. Hey, Presto! No longer “unemployed”. Another Work for the Dole success story.

My opinion of HECS is pretty close to Stew’s, I think it is a fair price to pay for a tertiary education. The real question is what is the value of that degree? I am studying Accounting and Information Technology as part of a Bachelor of Business, to eventually land a position where I will undoubtedly be re-trained on the job. A degree is now a requirement for “administration” jobs that would have been classified as semi-skilled “clerk” 20 years ago.

Apart from forcing people into the HECS system, I fail to see the value of mutual obligation (Ken Parish disagrees). My one compulsory unit of economics introduced me to a concept called “Supply and Demand”, and explained what happens when you stuff around with it. The minimum wage (along with increased participation over the last 30 years) creates a surplus in the supply of labour, and mutual obligation doesn’t address that problem.

Along a similar line, trying to push people into non-existent jobs by enforcement of mutual obligation only serves to push them into low-level bachelor degrees (and other weak training courses), causing a right-shift in supply and reducing the value of those graduates in the long term. The truly lazy are punished by reducing of their payments when they don’t fake their dole diary properly, and those without the academic ability to go back into training are consigned to the work-for-the-dole gulag.

My advice to myself is the same that I blogged to the “Dole Bludger“. Recognise that the current system can’t employ everyone, and instead employ yourself. Nevertheless, if there is someone out there that could use me, I would gladly consider offers of employment. I make $170 a week from Austudy, and I am almost out of noodles.