JobBridge helps nobody but employers
Last June, to great fanfare, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton officially launched the JobBridge internship programme. The scheme creates six or nine month internships for people currently unemployed, for which they receive €50 per week from the Department of Social Protection on top of their existing welfare entitlement.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared the programme to be a ‘flagship commitment’ of the Government’s Job Initiative, while Joan Burton claimed that she ‘firmly believed’ that many employers would offer jobs to their interns after they completed their internship.
Predictably, the JobBridge programme has instead ended up helping nobody but the employers. It is effectively a massive subsidy for private companies, providing them with free labour at a direct cost of €50 per week to the State. When you take into account the hidden cost in continued social welfare payments to people who are working, and the loss in tax revenue, which would be received if these people were actually being paid properly for the work they do, the real cost is much higher.
The scheme is extremely vulnerable to abuse, despite the Department’s assurances to the contrary. According to the rules of the scheme, ‘the host organisation currently may not have vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered’. Well, why would companies advertise vacancies when they know they can get interns to do the job for free?
The scheme has already been widely abused by employers. A quick search of the JobBridge website for internships in Galway city reveals opportunities such as ‘Food and Beverage Assistant’ or ‘Receptionist’ positions. These are clearly not the kind of jobs for which nine months training is needed, and their presence on the website shows how unscrupulous employers are using JobBridge to take advantage of the unemployed.
The JobBridge scheme is merely a means for the Government to reduce the numbers on the Live Register without creating any actual jobs. It effectively reduces the minimum wage to €238 per week (€188 + €50). Many interns report that it actually costs them more than the extra €50 per week to do their internship, due to transport costs and the cost of lunches, work clothes etc.
The Government refuses to confirm how many interns have been offered real jobs after completing their internships, although employers are supposed to provide them with this information according to the conditions for taking part in the scheme. If it was a significant number, surely Joan Burton would be shouting it from the rooftops?
The Quarterly National Household Survey for the fourth quarter of 2011 (published 7 March) shows that the number of people employed has decreased by 15,400 to 1,807,800 or 0.8 per cent, compared with the same quarter of 2010.
The results of the JobBridge programme so far show that providing free labour to private companies is a crazy way to try to create jobs. What is needed instead is large-scale state investment in creating real jobs for the thousands unemployed in this country.
United Left Alliance,