How Effective will “Jobkeeper” be in Containing the Unemployment Rate?

In the novel 1984 written by George Orwell, the main protagonist Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, producing propaganda and re-writing history for the government. Later he is taken to the Ministry of Love where he is tortured. The other two ministries of Plenty and Peace are concerned with rationing goods and the continuous war against Eastasia and Eurasia in turns.

The latest unemployment figures suggest the Federal Government has applied the same techniques when naming its flagship response programs to COVID-19. While 600,000 jobs were lost in April, the unemployment rate only rose 1% as 498,000 persons left the workforce, with many joining the new “Jobseeker” program or the renamed Newstart (No-start) program. However in contrast to many of the strictures for claiming Newstart there are more exemptions for those on “Jobseeker” not to actually actively seek a job, so 1.6 million Australians are currently claiming “Jobseeker” but only 823,000 are counted as unemployed.

If this is a guide for the much larger “Jobkeeper” program where there are 6 million claimants, then it may be a harbinger for how many of these jobs will be retained when the program ends in September?

Probably a more truthful naming of these programs would be Income Support as it would seem good policy both economically and politically to support those most affected by a government mandated shutdown of the economy, but perhaps an ex-advertising executive could not help himself.

The reality looks considerably grimmer than the headline unemployment figures but both business and consumer confidence are key to re-starting the economy so the government is likely using Orwellian naming techniques for both rational and political reasons.

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