In search of the dole bludger

The preoccupation with the fecklessness of those who find themselves excluded from paid employment has been a consistent feature of the Australian income support system. This preoccupation has given birth to a number of myths such as:

  • they’d find a job if they really looked
  • Abbot’s job snobs  – they are too fussy
  • they should shift to where the work is
  • they realy are working but claiming benefits too
  • they wouldn’t work in an iron lung,
  • they are not job ready, they are lazy
  • the benefit system is too generous at 21% below the poverty line

Defining the dole bludger

Instead of seeing people who could work but who choose not to as problem individuals, were we use a social model of citizenship then we would conceive of this as a problem for society. The solutions sought under a social model of citizenship would be along the lines of what changes would be necessary to society in order to incorporate such people into the workforce.

What advantaged accrue to our society as a result of continuing to identify problem individuals and concentrate on them as individuals? Does the whole society benefit from this process or only some sections of society?

Do powerless people benefit or only the powerful?

In some societies the solutions proffered are meant to:

  • rehabilitate these problem individuals,
  • punish these problem individuals,
  • ignore these problem individuals,
  • accept these problem individuals,
  • try to incorporate them into other aspects of society, or
  • redefine the problems which the society recognises the individual is experiencing.

By preserving with the concept of problem individuals we create some problems for the society. By making “work” whether in the market economy or “preparedness to work” in the benefit system as the defining characteristic of inclusion our society has constructed its own burden.

There may have been a time when we really did need all hands to the pump- when ever person in any society was needed in the labour market if we were to avoid disaster. Those days are long passed. Since the mid-1970s the market has been totally incapable of absorbing all the available labour in this country.

Instead of defining social citizenship (particularly the entitlement to income support) as something that is earned, it would be possible to see citizenship as something that is an entitlement for all born in a particular country and all who after migrating to a country meet the requirements of citizenship.

Citizenship means in its simplest form “You are one of us you have the identical rights and duties as have all other citizens. It is an act of inclusion. Citizen’s right to vote and other political rights can only be removed in this country if an individual commits a serious crime. But when it comes to targeted social services entitlements  take on a special form, our government has no difficulty constraining people’s accesss to services and even basic income support.