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Auctioning the unemployed on Trade Me, Part II: Scheme passes critics’ test

HIDE SIGHT A significant black market already exists in jobs being done by people claiming the dole. That would cease.

Rodney Hide
Thu, 28 Mar 2013


Last week’s column to auction the unemployed on Trade Me generated great discussion across the internet. Some thought it a good idea, many opposed it, there were many good suggestions and there were some sharp criticism.

Let’s consider the major criticisms.

The first was one of the scheme’s political practicality. “Which government or political party in power would have the balls to introduce the scheme?” The key aspect is how accepted the reform is at the next election and how much pain is endured getting there.

There’s no doubt the opposition parties would have a field day on the Warstler scheme’s introduction. There would be the usual allegations of “slave labour” and the sale of body parts, but then what?

The 50,000 get work and get paid. How do you campaign against that? Within two years we would struggle to recall that we ever did things differently.

The second identified problem was the impact on the already employed. Certainly, there would be a short-run effect in shifting 50,000 people into work. How much I do not know. But I suspect it would be hardly noticeable. 

I can’t imagine a mass layoff of workers on the minimum wage so that employers can bid each week for someone on the dole. Employers prefer the staff they have to people they don’t know and the 50,000 will undoubtedly be mostly employed doing jobs that now aren’t being done.

Besides, a significant black market already exists in jobs being done by people claiming the dole. That would cease.

There were a number of comments with the following general theme: “Less focus on dole bashing and more on upskilling, you right-wing tool.”

But for the unemployed, especially the young and unemployed, there is no greater upskilling than being in the paid workforce, being productive, and learning to do a good job. 

For most, it’s less about upskilling and more about getting into work and learning to work.

Jchaa336 declared, “there is no way in hell, ever, that I am going to work 40 hours for 40 extra bucks. Come on!” I don’t think Jchaa336 understands the scheme. If the unemployed refuse too many jobs their dole is cut. That’s the point.

The unemployment benefit is not without obligations and the real issue is not Jchaa336 refusing to work but taxpayers refusing to support him or her to do nothing.

One commenter opposed the scheme “because it might work. Creating a functioning market for peasants is not a good idea”. 

I don’t think the unemployed are peasants. And the entire point is to create a functioning market for the unemployed. It’s the lack of a “functioning market” that has people unemployed and shut of contributing to society.

One persistent and understable concern is the potential for fraud. I could employ my sister, for example, and she could employ me. We could agree that we each do nothing. Or employers could pay workers under the table and thereby keep the full government subsidy.

Of course, there is considerable fraud now. And many on the unemployment benefit are already doing jobs under the table. The question is whether the Warstler scheme would increase the fraud or decrease it.

It would seem to me that the scheme would dramatically reduce fraud.

First, the numbers of unemployed not working would diminish to close to zero. Second, the transactions would be transparent and public on the internet. Third, bad and dodgy employers would be exposed on the internet.

The Warstler scheme has survived its first test: there’s been no knock-down criticism from the commentators.

Rodney Hide
Thu, 28 Mar 2013
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Auctioning the unemployed on Trade Me, Part II: Scheme passes critics’ test