Wollongong job seekers have taken to the streets in protest against a system they say dehumanises the unemployed and does not help them find secure jobs.
On Monday the group took a 'sightseeing tour' of employment agencies in Wollongong, which organisers said were motivated by profit and not the welfare of those looking for work.
It came as new figures from the University of NSW Social Policy Research Centre showed there were 70 people receiving JobSeeker for every entry-level job available in the Illawarra and South Coast in January.
Overall, there were 13 JobSeeker recipients for every job vacancy in the region.
Protest organiser Sid Littlewood said it was in the interest of the privately owned employment agencies to keep job seekers cycling through insecure work, so as to continue receiving administration and outcome payments from the government.
"The for-profit model needs to change," Mx* Littlewood said.
They said they would not have experienced long-term unemployment were it not for their job agency, which provided little support and discouraged them from pursuing the teaching career they had studied for.
Mx Littlewood said a holistic approach and case managers who worked with job seekers to meet their needs were required.
But a service provider operating locally says it strives to find sustainable employment for people.
"APM delivers employment services in the Illawarra region and our employment consultants work closely with local employers to find sustainable jobs for local job seekers," corporate affairs general manager Adrian Bradley said.
The protest came ahead of the end of the coronavirus supplement for those receiving JobSeeker.
From Thursday, JobSeeker will reduce by $50 per week, when taking into account the $25 per week rise that comes into effect the same day.
Mx Littlewood said receiving the supplement over the past year gave them the opportunity to attend to their health and acquire a licence, which not only improved their quality of life but made them more employable.
Dean Fletcher, from the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union, said homelessness was the primary concern with the cut to JobSeeker, with people having already gone without food to meet rent.
From early April, people receiving JobSeeker will again have to apply for at least 15 jobs each month under the mutual obligation rules, and a line is being established for people to report those who decline a job.
"We know that most job seekers are doing the right thing and trying to find employment, however, a small minority are actively trying to game the system," then-Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said of the reporting line last month.
But Mx Littlewood said these measures were punitive.
The Illawarra Mercury has contacted the federal government and other employment service providers operating in the region for comment.
*Mx is a gender-neutral title
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