Australian Government ministers have agreed to permanently lift the base rate of the jobseeker payment by $50 a fortnight when the coronavirus supplement ends in March – the equivalent of just $3.50 a day. Not even enough for a cup of coffee at a cafe (average cost is $4).
Before the pandemic, the base rate of Job Seeker for a single person was about $40 a day. This week the Federal Government announced it would increase payments by $50 a fortnight, lifting the base rate to $44 a day.
The Uniting Church Assembly has joined UnitingCare Australia in expressing disappointment at this meagre increase in the base rate of the JobSeeker payment.
Those receiving the Job Keeper benefit will get $615.70 a fortnight, which is still a drop from the current rate of $715 a fortnight, when the $150 coronavirus supplement expires at the end of March.
The Australian Unemployed Workers Union described the $50-a-fortnight increase as a “cruel joke”. Perhaps appropriate then that the increase takes effect on April Fools Day, April 1.
The UCA President, Dr Deidre Palmer, said: “One of our key learnings from the pandemic has been that we are only as strong and healthy as the most vulnerable members of our society. The extra support delivered by the Government throughout the pandemic has been a lifeline for many Australians. COVID-19 highlighted in a new way that people who are unemployed need adequate funds in order to live with dignity, remain healthy and participate in society.”
“In 2020, we released our Build Back Better statement which called for a fair and permanent increase to JobSeeker to ensure a safety net for people out of work, but these changes fail to live up to those hopes,” said Dr Palmer.
“We need to do better.”
In recent months, UnitingCare Australia has joined other community sector agencies in calling for a permanent rise to the JobSeeker payment.
This week UnitingCare joined Anglicare Australia in condemning the changes that they say will plunge people into poverty.
UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said the announcement was a devastating blow to individuals and families struggling to make ends meet.
“Unemployment payments need to be above the poverty line. Increasing the base rate by a mere $3.60 a day is not enough to lift people out of poverty.
“As one of the largest networks of community service providers nationally, we have seen first-hand the positive impact of the Coronavirus Supplement,” said Ms Little.
“One of our services spoke about a young father who is the sole carer of his three small children. He said the impact of the JobSeeker supplement meant that instead of living life on the edge, he has been enabled to be a better father.”
“No one deserves to live in poverty. We need a permanent, adequate increase to JobSeeker that actually enables people to meet their needs and live with dignity.”
Two weeks ago, UnitingCare and Anglicare called on the Government to raise the rate of JobSeeker after releasing research which showed people on the old rate of JobSeeker, which has been frozen for nearly three decades, had forced people to skip meals because their payments were so low.
Many were left with as little as $7 a day after paying their rent. Others were forced to couch-surf. Read the FULL REPORT.
Facts and figures
March 2020: JobSeeker – $40 a day
April-September 2020: JobSeeker – $80 a day
October-December: JobSeeker – $60 a day
January-March 2021: JobSeeker – $50 a day
April 1 2021: JobSeeker – $43.50 a day
(Could you live on this?)
Those receiving the new Job Keeper benefit will get $615.70 a fortnight (or about $44 a day), which is a drop from the current rate of $715 a fortnight, when the $150 coronavirus supplement expires at the end of March.
Before the pandemic, the base rate of jobseeker for a single person was $565 a fortnight, or about $40 a day.
During the pandemic, the jobseeker payment was initially doubled with a $550 coronavirus supplement before the top-up payment was reduced in September 2020 and January 2021.
The relative poverty line for a single person – set at 50% of median income – is $914 a fortnight, while another measure, the Henderson poverty line, puts it at about $1,100 a fortnight.
Welfare groups, Labor, the Greens and even the Reserve Bank of Australia urging the Coalition not to allow the payment to fall back to the pre-pandemic rate.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) had called for a permanent increase to jobseeker of at least $25 per day ($350 a fortnight). The Australian Unemployed Workers Union, backed by the Greens, wanted it raised to $80 a day, which is closer to the rate paid at the height of the pandemic.
A new report from Anglicare Victoria found the coronavirus supplements had alleviated financial stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anglicare Victoria chief executive, Paul McDonald, said: “The COVID-19 stimulus measures gave people without work a better quality of life, helping them meet their debts and restore their dignity. They gave people more ability to pay off outstanding debt and the research recommends that they should be permanent.”