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The plight of the unemployed – under growth and decay

The Australian economy is growing and adding jobs and the unemployment rate is 5.4 per cent (having risen 0.3 points in the last month). But we avoided the recession courtesy of a timely and sizeable fiscal intervention followed up by strong growth in China (also courtesy of their significantly larger fiscal intervention (as a % of GDP)). But the treatment of the unemployed by our government is appalling. Across the Pacific, the US economy is starting to grow but only just adding jobs and not in sufficient quantities to reduce the unemployment rate and it is persisting at around 9.6 per cent. They didn’t avoid the recession and have laboured for nearly 3 years with the devastating consequences of it. The treatment of the unemployed by the US government is more than appalling. So it doesn’t matter if things are brighter or not, we still vilify the victims of the macroeconomic policy failure. That is what this blog is about. It is a depressing message!

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Why are we so mean to the unemployed?

With unemployment rising in Australia as the downturn continues and no sign that strong employment growth is about to absorb the new entrants plus those currently without jobs, I was reflecting today on just how mean we are to those who are bearing the brunt of the downturn. In part, this thinking was also conditioned by my field trip out to North-West NSW on Monday and Tuesday (I will report separately). Unemployment out there is rife and the jobless have little hope. So I started to look into our unemployment benefit regime today. In the May 2009 Federal budget, while other pensioners enjoyed a generous increase in payments, the unemployed missed out on any increase. So why does so-called Labor Government have neither the creativity to generate jobs nor the generosity to help those that suffer the consequences of their failed macroeconomic policies?

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