10,000 young Australians who are either unemployed or underemployed will be pushed into retail internships that will earn them as little as $200 per week, under a new deal struck between the Turnbull Government and the Australian Retailers Association.
Companies like Baker’s Delight and the Coffee Club have already signed on to accept the internships, which are part of an expansion of the Government’s PaTH internship program.
Jobless young people between the ages of 15 and 24 will be eligible to participate in the 12-week placements, that will net them the princely sum of $200 per week on top of their existing Centrelink benefits.
Bafflingly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted that the internships could indeed be the catapult needed to shoot a young person in Australia from unemployment towards being the next Captain of Industry.
“They will get a start at a job and, you know what, they could go on to great heights. They could go on to, like many others before them, running big businesses, owning big businesses and employing lots of other people, realising their dreams.”
Because lord knows the one thing holding young people back before this was being unable to be grossly underpaid for three months worth of slicing bread all day.
Interestingly enough, these base-level retail placements will require those who “volunteer” for them to undergo additional job training via Centrelink before they’re even able to walk onto the job. ARA chief Russell Zimmerman explains that noodle-scratcher thusly:
“We need our young staff to have basic vocational skills and the mix of retail means you could need food training to tyre fitting qualifications before you can start on the job.”
Meanwhile, Federal employment minister Michaelia Cash lauded the partnership as “the best form of welfare,” extolling its virtues as an apparently vital new tool to help combat spiralling youth unemployment.
“It is a three-step program and it is all about getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job.”
“When we say that the best form of welfare is a job, we mean it, and we will put both the resources and the programs behind it.”
On the flip side, Australian Unions have gone absolutely batshit about the announcement, asserting that the move is a “kick in the guts” for young jobseekers and creates an environment where there is no incentive for companies to offer permanent positions at the conclusion of internship placements.
ACTU President Ged Kearney noted that work undertaken by people in these placements would be compensated at a rate of around $4 per hour, and that the impact of this decision would be “devastating.”
“This program will do nothing for young people beyond churning them through short term, dead end placements. It will take away full wage paying positions, denying Australians decent work, and will entrench the current poor economic situation of soaring profits and stagnating wages.“
“If there are 10,000 positions in retail available, then give people a real job.”
Interns Australia also expressed concern that the placements risks normalising intern culture in the retail sector, noting that the work is not difficult to train for, and demands fair pay once productive work is being completed.
“My first job was at Bakers Delight. I didn’t need to do unpaid work experience for 12 weeks to learn how to do it. Nobody needs to. After a short period, you are performing productive work and deserve to be paid for it as an employee. It shouldn’t be normal to pop into your local Coffee Club and see an ‘intern’ waitress working for free.”
So yeah. Paying unemployed kids $4 an hour to do entry-level retail work. According to the Government, that’s a good thing that won’t at all provide opportunistic retail corporations the green light to funnel temp-workers through a revolving door, paying them nothing and receiving Government incentive ($1,000 per person) along the way. And what, prey tell, happens to underemployed people relying on a handful of existing retail shifts to get by?
It’s dumb, it’s short-sighted, and it’s indicative of this Government’s shitty attitude towards youth employment in this country.
Couple that with a weekend that saw retail workers have their penalty rates officially cut, and it’s a bleak picture for people in need of work being painted indeed. That Turnbull et al has the gall to smile about any of this is truly staggering.
Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty.