Work for the Dole Concerns of an Unemployed Worker

By Martin, AUWU member

Working for dole pic

Work For The Dole (WFTD) is a farce.

I have been to two Job Network System providers and been absolutely staggered by how thin the veil is on this scheme – they’re not even pretending it’s about getting a job. In my discussions with them, WFTD was used solely for punitive purposes; as a threat to make your life so miserable that you will take anything at all to get out of it. As such, there’s a strong incentive for the JNS providers to quite deliberately make the WFTD NOT match your skills and experience.

The purpose of Work For The Dole is stated clearly on‘s website (see

Work for the Dole can help job seekers:

develop the skills that employers want
show they are ready to start work
meet new people and make contacts who can be a referee
get involved in their local community.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But the reality has nothing to do with this. The reality is that the provider places you in a WFTD scheme as far away as possible from your existing skill set, so you can’t possibly “develop the skills that employers want” in any meaningful way (unless – unknown to me – there is a sudden urgent need in the workforce for skills at doing tasks normally assigned to those with developmental disabilities).

Why do providers do this?

It seems to me that providing someone with a WFTD placement that matches their skills would assist the unemployed person to ease back into employment, with something they can actually put on their CV. But that is not quick enough for the providers, so they use an alternative method: they place you in a WFTD placement completely at odds with your skills and experience in the hope that you will drop out of it entirely – and thus off benefit. Whether you take up some McJob on slave wages or simply go and live under a bridge is irrelevant to the provider: they’re not interested in getting you a job; they’re interested in removing you from benefit.

In addition, giving every person that comes across their desk the exact same base-level WFTD placement is much easier than actually trying to match people to roles, and the JNS provider industry is very much a factory system: churn them through in the hope they drop off benefit. The contrast with the old Commonwealth Employment Service is quite stark. The CES used to try to fit you into a role … there was an investigatory process, and you felt that at least in some way they were working FOR you. The JNS providers are nothing like that. They spend about two minutes with you, apart from simply getting you to fill out interminable database fields. They are simply in the position of amateurs trying to do the job of professionals.


After observing my first provider with growing disbelief at their complete lack of professionalism, I wrote to the Department of Employment detailing the company’s faults, and I received a phone call from a Department of Employment staffer agreeing that my reported experience was not what they expected. He asked if I wanted to take the matter any further than simply changing providers, and I declined to do so, as unfortunately being tagged as a ‘difficult’ jobseeker is definitely ‘sticking your head above the parapet.’ However my second provider was little better, and they had the same WFTD placement method: a role apparently chosen to be as soul-destroying and demeaning as possible, sorting rags for a charity (I have extensive experience in management, administration, and IT).

I accept that receiving unemployment benefit means taking action to find work. But WFTD, which has been sold as part of that process, is simply not being used in that way. Currently, its only purpose is to drive the unemployed off benefit – without actually getting them into real employment.