The JobSeeker rate is set to increase by $56 per fortnight in September. But the federal Opposition says it has a better plan – one that could see many more older Australians qualify for the payment.
The JobSeeker increase comprises a $40 lift to the base rate announced in the Federal Budget and a 2.2 per cent indexation for cost of living.
The increase should take effect from 20 September, but only after the government’s safety net bill passes the Senate.
The federal Opposition wants to reverse the planned increase in favour of doubling the Income Free Area (IFA) by $150 per fortnight. This would allow recipients to earn more from work before their benefits are cut.
Shadow social services minister Michael Sukkar told the ABC the measure would save the budget $2.9 billion over the next four years and encourage more people into work.
“There are 808,000 JobSeeker recipients across the nation, of which more than 75 per cent have zero reported earnings, with no part-time work,” he said.
“Increasing the income-free area before benefits are reduced incentivises those on working age payments to take up employment opportunities.”
The Opposition hopes the Senate will back the doubling of the IFA proposal. If not, Mr Sukkar says the party will not block the Jobseeker rate increase.
Minister for social services Amanda Rishworth said the government would not support the proposal, as it may discourage people from finding full-time employment.
“Our conservative estimates are that with a doubling of the Income Free Area, there would be an additional 50,000 people who would become eligible for JobSeeker overnight because the thresholds at which they are cut off would increase,” she said.
“This measure could actually encourage a longer-term reliance on casual work and JobSeeker rather than a transition into the workforce.”
But is this necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to the many older Australians on JobSeeker?
According to The Guardian, in March, there were a total of 925,165 people on unemployment benefits. Out of those, 236,280 are aged 55 and over. More than 195,000 are aged between 55 and 64 and 41,195 aged 65 and over.
That’s a significant portion of the unemployed population, and one with the worst employment prospects.
Earlier this year, Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers flagged over-55s as “dominated by women” and “most likely to be long-term unemployed”.
It’s no secret that many older Australians face ageism and discrimination when it comes to employment.
But many older people are perfectly suited for part-time roles to supplement their income before they reach Age Pension age.
The $56 increase is welcome. But will it provide as much long-term benefit as expanding access to JobSeeker in the first place? Only time will tell.
Do you think the JobSeeker increase is enough? Do you think the opposition’s plan would work better? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Also read: Age pensioners’ Work Bonus explained