Here we go again, government blames the jobless for unemployment

We have a long history across both LNP and Labor governments of blaming the jobless for unemployment. Photo: Shutterstock
We have a long history across both LNP and Labor governments of blaming the jobless for unemployment. Photo: Shutterstock

Stigma, noun, "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality of person."

Stigma is often associated with labelling someone, when they are no longer seen as a person, but as part of a stereotyped group.

Dehumanising people, attributing generalised judgments to them and branding them all with the same assumptions are central to weaving the narrative of stigma.

It is destructive, damaging and indicative of a belief that one person is better than another, despite the underlying basis of the stigma being a genealogical lottery, unfortunate circumstance, tragedy or systemic disadvantage.

When our Prime Minister addressed the people via 2GB radio and claimed that the increased rate of JobSeeker payments due to the coronavirus supplement was an impediment to people accepting shifts, we saw the continued perpetuation of the myth that people experiencing unemployment are all to blame for their circumstance and even in control of it.

This attitude underpins the stigma of unemployment and propagates it through the community, especially when it is a story trotted out by the government time and again - repetition breeds ingrained belief systems.

After all, how many of us think "the best form of welfare is a job" when thinking about Newstart or JobSeeker?

A very successful, if stigmatising, marketing campaign by the government, if ever there was one.

Businesses are not immune to this belief system - peddling this narrative of people experiencing unemployment being lazy, unwilling to work, unmotivated and to blame for their circumstance impacts perceptions of people in this situation for those who might employ them.

If the government is saying that people experiencing unemployment are essentially lazy layabouts, why would the businesses hire them? The stigmatising narrative becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is interesting, if not mortifying, to watch the plan to systematically undermine people experiencing unemployment over the two-month lead-up to the coronavirus supplement "cliff" in September unfold, as if we can't see that what Mr Morrison is doing is laying the groundwork to cut the payment right back to below the poverty line again.

Labor may have accused Mr Morrison of having his head in the sand, but as far as I can see, that's not where it is at all. He can see quite clearly what is happening, and the groundwork is being laid deliberately to avoid finding himself in the "trap" of "funding empathy" down the road.

The "anecdotal evidence" that Mr Morrison was using in this radio interview has been largely debunked by journalists as a handful of responses by way of a survey.

Although not surprising, it is worth noting that Mr Morrison doesn't seem interested in talking to people experiencing unemployment to understand the other side of this story.

We don't hear much "anecdotal evidence" from our PM about people struggling to feed families, the impact of being injured at work, the experience of trying to manage mental health issues and work, or even just the struggle to find a job.

We have a long history in this country across both LNP and Labor governments of blaming the jobless for unemployment.

It not only deepens the chasm between the haves and have nots, but it is a cop-out, for it is a blatant and public blame-shifting process from the very people who are meant to be creating the jobs to the people who rely on them to survive.

The illusion is carefully manipulated to give the impression that we could have 100 per cent employment in this country if only the jobless would get off their butts and do the work.

And yet, the numbers unveil this illusion as the lie that it is: even in the most prosperous of times, unemployment is an inevitable characteristic of a capitalist economy.

We have more than 1.6 million people experiencing unemployment at the moment, more than 3 million people on JobKeeper and this isn't even including the underemployment figures.

However, we have fewer than 100,000 jobs advertised. I really don't think it matters how much "anecdotal" evidence is talked about, these numbers just do not compute and that is not the fault of the people on the ground.

When there are no jobs, what is the best form of welfare?

When there are no jobs, what is the best form of welfare?

This story Here we go again, government blames the jobless for unemployment first appeared on The Canberra Times.