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During the economic lockdown that was instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘mutual obligation’ requirements for people in receipt of unemployment benefits were suspended. For three months, unemployed people were exempt from the usual requirements to look for work, attend appointments with Jobactive providers, and engage in other compulsory activities. From 9 June 2020, these mutual obligation requirements were re-introduced in a phased approach.
In this discussion paper, the author argues that we cannot return to the system of mutual obligation that was in place before the lockdown. The current mutual obligation framework is inflexible and ineffective: a return to this system would impose strict job search requirements that are unreasonable in a labour market where competition for jobs will be fierce. It also currently imposes a requirement that unemployed people undertake work for the dole once they have been unemployed for 12 months and after that once for every six months of unemployment that follows.