Charities call for permanent increase to JobSeeker post-COVID

Organisations plead for a permanent increase to welfare payments.

Senior woman wearing medical face mask Disassembles food bags at home in the kitchen

Major Australian organisations are calling for a “permanent and adequate increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related payments”.

The Australian Medical Association, Cancer Council Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and People with Disability Australia are among the institutions that have signed a joint statement and supported today’s National Day of Action to raise levels of welfare payments.

The Raise The Rate For Good campaign says Australia “cannot turn back to the brutality of people without paid work struggling to survive on the old Newstart rate of $40 per day”.

“This is not enough to live, let alone to cover the basics, including housing, food (especially fresh food), transport, bills, medical and healthcare needs.”

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers told Pro Bono News that before the Newstart coronavirus supplement doubled payments, 46 per cent of the charity’s clients “needed help getting basic essentials such as food or medicine”.

Ms Chambers said under the old rate, people were “forced to turn to charity just to get by”.

“Most people we surveyed reported missing meals at least once a week. They were juggling which medications they could afford to take and working out how they could afford their electricity bill.”

Leanne Wells, the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, says: “The significant increase in the unemployment payment at the onset of the coronavirus was recognition of just how inadequate the old Newstart rate was.

“The argument for retaining a realistic rise in these payments is even stronger today when we face the prospect of deep economic recession and the mounting health challenges that will bring to low-income Australians.”

She called on all sides of politics to “act on the compelling evidence that people in poverty are much more likely to suffer poor health, higher risk of chronic disease and mental illness”.

Older Australians who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic have been acknowledged as one of the key groups facing long-term hardship.

Professor John Piggott, from the University of NSW business school, said it was “common knowledge” that if you were thrown out of employment at the age of 55, you had a greatly reduced chance of finding another job than if you were younger. “The rate of long-term unemployment is much higher for people above the age of 55,” he said.

Foodbank Australia has reported a 78 per cent increase in people using its services since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The emergency coronavirus supplement payment lifted the JobSeeker rate to $1100 a fortnight but is due to end in late September. Charities believe they will be overwhelmed if the rate returns to $560 a fortnight for more than 1.7 million people currently on the unemployment benefit. The $1500-a-fortnight JobKeeper scheme, subsidising more than 3.3 million employees, is also due to cease at the end of September.

The government is expected to announce its plans for the schemes during the budget update on 23 July.

Grattan Institute household finances program director Brendan Coates told The Age that a return to previous payment rates would be “catastrophic”.

“It's a recipe for a large number of defaults in the mortgage market and it's a recipe for hardship and demand for charity going through the roof.

“There is currently only one job vacancy available for every 13 people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.”

Ms Wells says the government’s own publication, Australia’s health 2018 states that if the health gaps between the most and least disadvantaged closed, “half a million Australians could be spared chronic illness, $2.3 billion in annual hospital costs could be saved, and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription numbers cut by 5.3 million”.

“For many people who used to be on the old, low rate of Newstart, the increase to JobSeeker has meant they’ve finally been able to access the essentials, like prescription glasses, paying electricity bills so they can turn their heating on and buy warm jumpers for their children to get through winter,” Ms Wells said.

“We agree with ACOSS that as we rebuild in the future, we cannot turn our back on those who are at risk of being left behind.

“And, of course, we know that people in private rental are by far the worst off because of the high cost of rent.”

Ms Chambers said she would like to see the JobSeeker payment remain at its current coronavirus supplement rate. And maintaining it would help the economy.

“Clients are telling us that since the new rate came in, they haven’t needed to eat two-minute noodles for dinner. They’ve not had to decide which medications they can afford to take,” she said.

“While we recognise that’s a huge budget amount, it is also the best stimulus that the country could dream up.

“That money will go straight back into the local supermarket, into the local pharmacist, and boost the economy.”

The Guardian’s Greg Jericho has labelled the base jobseeker payment “disgracefully low”.

“The harsh truth about the government’s decision to effectively double the jobseeker rate from a base of $565.70 a fortnight to $1115 for a single person, as soon as COVID-19 smashed employment, is that were the rate actually at a decent level such a special bonus would not have been needed.”

He also sees economic benefits for the nation in increased rates.

“Unemployment benefits need to do two things. First, they need to allow people to support themselves while looking for work. Second, they should act as automatic stabilisers during recessions – to keep money flowing across the economy.

“As it is, the jobseeker payment, even when including the extra $550, only just gets a person above the poverty line.”

He says the pre-COVID-19 level of jobseeker was nearly 40 per cent below the poverty line.

Do you support lifting welfare payments?

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    COMMENTS

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    tisme
    14th Jul 2020
    3:30pm
    carer pittance 1000.00 pf , rent 700.00 we need a raise ,
    Ms Logik
    14th Jul 2020
    6:00pm
    It would also help if rents would come down to an affordable level. Rents just went up and up in the last years so that nearly all the money went into rent and electricity and didn't leave much for daily living and driving a car (another big expense). Everyone has the right to have a roof over their heads!
    With private rentals, the problem is that landlord's mortgages are so high that they have to put the rent up to afford to pay their mortgages.
    The whole system needs a reset and we all can be happy :)
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:00pm
    Rent needs to be lowered and a freeze put on rent increases at least until the economy is functioning better again.
    Not all private rentals have a mortgage Ms Logik and considering mortgage rates have actually decreased lately they should not be putting up the rent.
    libsareliars
    15th Jul 2020
    1:36pm
    Absolutely agree that the rate for Jobseeker should stay as it is - it is disgraceful and cruel that it has taken this pandemic for it to be raised. I don't understand why it hasn't been - all the money they would receive would go straight back into the economy being spent on food, rent, clothing, health etc. It's a win win situation for everyone.
    Fedup
    14th Jul 2020
    5:34pm
    I think people over 55 who have paid taxes for the majority of their working life and face age discrimination when trying to get a job, should get a higher rate than younger people or people who have never paid income tax.

    I don’t think people should be getting paid over $1,000 for not working when there are people who do part time or casual work and get less or not much more than that.
    Big Kev
    14th Jul 2020
    5:53pm
    The minimum wage is currently just over $1500 per fortnight. It's original description was the minimum income to keep a family including 2 children at subsistence level. The increase Jobseeker is still $400 less than this. The level they are talking about taking it back to is a third of this.

    In addition, they are talking about reducing sickness benefit, which is higher to pay for increase medical and pharmaceutical costs, and bereavement allowance, which was six weeks at married pension rate to cover funeral and other costs. These will go to Jobseeker low rate.

    This mob need a kick in the head. They can waste hundreds of billions on missiles we will never use, while not allowing people the basics of life!
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:02pm
    There is no reason that over 55's should get more than those younger. You still have the same costs of living.
    libsareliars
    15th Jul 2020
    1:38pm
    Agree with you Incognito that the young should get just as much as the older group - they are the ones that will be paying for this and climate change inaction in the coming years.
    Youngagain
    16th Jul 2020
    4:45pm
    I agree with Fedup. Those over 55 have far less chance of finding work - either casual or permanent - and if they have been working for decades and paid taxes they should expect to be treated with respect when they fall on hard times. Their health may be starting to decline. There IS work for young folk if they are willing, but much of it is work that is difficult or completely unsuitable for older folk. Also, those with families face greater challenges as they can't move about as freely to find work. These things should be considered when setting JobSeeker rates.
    Jacka
    14th Jul 2020
    6:06pm
    Dear old tisme, Carer pittance $1000.00 per fortnight. $1000 a fortnight of taxpayers money to look after your own family member. You don't need a raise, you need to get a job you ungrateful wanka. Jacka.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:02pm
    That's a bit harsh, how can he get work if he is a full time carer?
    kram
    15th Jul 2020
    10:52am
    I am continually amazed at how much the Govt. pays out to so many for doing so little.
    Justifications for why they should get more fly thick and fast.

    I see Incognito thinks all carers work 24 hours a day for their handouts.Maybe an admirable delusion.
    Yes, I am a carer for a cancer patient but being family, I am not demanding that the Govt. pays me to look after mine, I just still work and handle my own life.
    Mez
    15th Jul 2020
    12:17pm
    I am an Age Pensioner who should also be getting a Carer's Allowance for my daughter on a Disability Pension but because it is so pitifully low, I haven't applied!
    Jacka
    14th Jul 2020
    6:16pm
    Ah, Ms Logik, You need to go to your local GP. and get a shot of reality. Yes everybody does have the right to have a roof over their head and they also have the right to pay for it. If you can't afford your rent where you're living, either get a second job if you happen to have a first job or move out to the country where you may have a better life style. Oh yeah, and stop whining and take responsibility for your own life. Jacka.
    Ms Logik
    14th Jul 2020
    7:10pm
    Hi Jacka, the reality is: When you are over 60 it is nearly impossible to find a new job. I have paid taxes most of my life. Now I have to wait until I am 67 to be eligible for the age pension. In a civilized society I have a right to be looked after by the younger tax payers because when I was younger, I looked after them!
    I am living in the country but rents are just as high. By the way, I am not whining, just suggesting solutions to the problems.
    And your answer to tisme: It is much cheaper to pay a family carer to look after an old parent/partner than it would be to have the old person in a nursing home. Having worked in Age Care for many years, I know how hard this is. How would these households function without income?
    Do you have a heart, Jacka? It's not all about money!
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:04pm
    No Jacka has no heart just enough money that he does not or has never known the reality of being on welfare. The reality is that there is 1 job for every 13 people so how can someone get a second job?
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    12:54am
    Incognito, the 1 job for 13 people is just a ratio. There are likely many people with two or even three jobs and side hustles to make ends meet. It does not make it any easier to compete for a job as there will be applicants looking for an extra gig as well as the unemployed. Employers don't care so much whether it is a first or second job for the successful applicant, just that the job gets done.
    KSS
    15th Jul 2020
    3:44pm
    No Ms Logik, you do NOT have the right to be looked after just because you paid tax.

    There are thousands of people who "paid tax all their lives" and never had handpouts from any Government. The only right you have is to apply for welfare. If you meet the criteria you may be granted a payment of some sort. You are not entitled to anything simply on the basis of the work you may have done or the tax you may have paid.
    Jacka
    14th Jul 2020
    6:24pm
    Ah, yes Fedup, I couldn't agree more. Nobody should be receiving $500 a week of taxpayers money for sitting on on their a#s doing nothing. And once again, to add insult to injury, they whinge about it and call it a pittance. The more money you give people, the less incentive to work. Jacka.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:07pm
    You have no idea do you? Very few sit around doing nothing and most do not want to be on welfare. Your reality is ignorant of the real reality in this world. 1 job for every 13 people, that means 12 miss out on a job. Wait until unemployment rate is zero and then you can make these statements.
    Justsane
    15th Jul 2020
    12:58pm
    Everyone should have enough to live on, Jacka. You are too quick to judge. How do you know what people do all day? People should get what they need - that is a civilised society - it enables them to participate properly in life and also makes the economy run smoothly. Who are you to judge whether someone 'deserves' money or not? And, so what if they don't - on your calculation?
    libsareliars
    15th Jul 2020
    1:42pm
    Agree with Incognito and Justsane, Jacka sounds like a very miserable type. Begrudges anybody getting anything that he doesn't!
    Jim
    14th Jul 2020
    7:37pm
    The people who are saying all of these payments need to go up or rather stay at the current levels, I agree that the welfare system needs to be overhauled, but where is the money coming from, with the prediction that many more people are going to be unemployment after the pandemic is over, that’s going to result in less tax coming in to pay for welfare, I think we need to have a good hard look at the welfare payments currently on offer, eg free child care or subsidies for many people, the cost of parental leave is a burden on businesses, many people are calling for us to buy Australian, great idea, but the cost is going To skyrocket. It’s great to support all of these good initiatives when the economy is robust, that’s not the situation at the moment, we are going to struggle with the debt already incurred. There have been incidents already of part timers and casuals reluctant to return to work because they are getting more money on the job keeper program than if they were at work, I have seen reports on tv of small and medium businesses that have been advertising for part time and full time staff, I don’t know the numbers. I’ve always believed we should be looking after our most vulnerable people first, that includes pensioners, disabled people including people with mental health issues, I don’t think there is an easy answer and we are in for a rough ride for quite a while.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:11pm
    The thing is if people are not able to get work they end up having mental issues due to depression etc. And there is only 1 job for every 13 people, why should they live below the poverty line, this is not good for a stable society. When you lift people out of poverty you lift the whole of society.
    People looking for work do not want part time casual work that pays no sick leave or any other entitlements they want full time work. And where are these full time jobs you talk about, is that just hear say? Facebook fake news?
    Jim
    14th Jul 2020
    9:35pm
    Not sure where you are getting your information of 1 job for 13 applicants is that just since the current crisis, and no I don’t get my information from Facebook, if you read my post I indicated that it was on tv, several businesses complained that they couldn’t get workers for either part time or full time positions, do I know for a fact that they are telling the truth, no I do not, I have not been out and interviewed these people myself, I can only rely on the same sort of information as everyone else, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that some people are reluctant to return to the part time jobs they had before the current crisis, $1500 a fortnight is hard to turn your nose up at. There is some misunderstanding regarding sick leave and holidays, if you are part time you are entitled to both on a pro rata basis, as a casual you are not, I am not suggesting that anyone should live below the poverty line, that’s why I think we need to overhaul the welfare system, that way we can look after the most vulnerable in society, I don’t know why so many people ark up as soon as anyone mentions that not everyone on welfare is doing it tough, we have all seen the stories on programs like a current affair and some ABC programs that have highlighted some of the rorts that go on with some welfare recipients, like the 4 young girls that lived together and pooled their welfare payments and were better off than a family of 4. Yes I know this might not be the majority, but it might just be enough to stop others getting the help they need.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    9:46pm
    “There is currently only one job vacancy available for every 13 people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.”
    That was written in the above article.
    Jim
    14th Jul 2020
    9:59pm
    Ok I didn’t notice that, so it’s in the current crisis, hopefully that will improve if and when this pandemic ends.
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    1:08am
    Jim, don't go believing the anecdotes about people refusing to return to work because of Jobkeeper. Those on Jobkeeper have a lawful duty to return to work if there is a reasonable request by the employer; if they refuse to resume work then they can be summarily dismissed and will likely find themselves unable to claim unemployment for a period. So unless your Jobkeeper mates have strong reasons to believe the request to be unreasonable e.g. the workplace is unsafe, do you see it happening?

    Also four adults ("young girls") living together is not a rort. It is lawful and a completely sensible approach to living circumstances when trying to get by on not much. A family of four might not be able to live that way however they have access to other social welfare. Four seniors might not like it but the option is there for them.
    KSS
    15th Jul 2020
    3:50pm
    Have to agree with you Jim. There are a number of reports now of people on Jobkeeper refusing to return to work until it stops in September even though the employer needs them back now. There are also reports (and I saw for myself recently on a short trip I made) farmers are on the brink of ploughing their crops into the dirt because now that backpackers are unavailable, they can't get the workers to pick it. Where are all the unemployed looking for work? Or are they too proud to harvest crops which is the reason Farmers use backpackers in the first place.

    Whether Jobkeeper or any handout is retained beyond September is a matter for the Government. But if it is, then it needs to be far better targeted to stop the ridiculous situation we have now where people are getting far more on the subsidy than they ever got when working their usual shifts.
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    8:22pm
    KSS, where is the proof that Jobkeeper recipients are not returning to work? More fool the employer for paying it if they do not comply with a lawful request to return to work.

    The farmers should pay more and offer transport and accommodation if they want people to up stumps and temporarily move to the fields.

    There are still plenty of backpackers in the country as a result of visa extensions.
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:28pm
    Good points Farside, accomodation is a real issue in rural areas, any accomodation that is offered is sub standard, just ask any of the back packers. I saw a story recently on TV that many of the back packers chose to stay in Australia because they thought it would be safer with many extending their visas by taking part in helping farmers and communities recover from the bushfires and droughts.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    7:58pm
    Yes, yes, yes, I support it fully. Until we get the unemployment rate to zero there will always be people suffering. 25 years without a substantial rise while cost of living has increased so much especially rents (I know because I am a renter and have been for a long time). We also have many people still living in substandard rentals because they cannot afford anything near comfortable. And we have a continuing increase in homeless rates. Crime rates must be going down since the increase too.
    Mez
    15th Jul 2020
    12:23pm
    Rents are decreasing now that property prices are decreasing and less Chinese here to buy properties so more places to rent!
    That can be used as a bargaining tool to keep the rent as is or lowered or you will find a cheaper place now!
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:02pm
    Where is rent's going down? Not around here, my rent goes up every year and I expect it will again when my lease is due in February.
    dabi56
    14th Jul 2020
    8:17pm
    I can't wait until the 23rd July when the Treasurer Friedeggburger makes his announcement on Jobkeeper and Jobseeker payments. They have to pay people more but it will be like extracting a tooth from the Liberals.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    8:35pm
    Be nice if Fryburger announces a cut in politicians pensions lol. I bet there will be something for their business mates though.
    dabi56
    14th Jul 2020
    8:54pm
    I reckon that they will stop Jobkeeper and make Jobseeker the same as the pension with all of the income and assets rules.
    But of course unless they go to an early election next year they have another two years, so they don't have to give too much away.
    As I wrote it will be very interesting to see what they do.
    Incognito
    14th Jul 2020
    9:09pm
    It would make more sense just to have all those who have lost their jobs to be on JobSeeker rather than JobKeeper because many will never be re-employed and it has been complicated and some rorting happening.
    dabi56
    14th Jul 2020
    10:51pm
    The leadership is very dysfunctional so anything is possible. I mean why did they give away the two $750 in stimulus, people on those benefits who it applied too did not need it. It would have been better to save the money and used it to help pay for the increase in jobseeker that they will have to pay.
    Our politicians have no idea, this will take at least 3 years or more to hopefully get over, maybe. Maybe even 5 or 10 years.
    The world as we know it for a lot, is not going back to the way it was. Unless you have a nice safe job
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    1:12am
    Incognito, those on Jobkeeper have not lost their jobs. Theoretically they are still attached to their employer. You are right that many may not be re-employed and much has been written about zombie companies that are on artificial life support from Jobkeeper and should be allowed to fail.
    Brissiegirl
    15th Jul 2020
    1:57pm
    Where's all this extra money coming from?
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:03pm
    Same place all the politicians wages are coming from Brissiegirl.
    thommo
    15th Jul 2020
    6:34am
    Apart from Jobseekers/Jobkeeper payments (which are temporary) Morrison has done nothing to stimulate the economy. The renovater scheme and tax cuts only benefit the wealthy.
    You can see that these measures are ideologically based on neoliberal philosophy, but people are waking up to this stingey charlatan.
    If he doesn't keep the Jobseeker payment at its new level permanently, he can kiss goodbye to the next election. And good riddance.
    libsareliars
    15th Jul 2020
    1:46pm
    Well said thommo, agree entirely.
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:04pm
    They could easily get the economy going by spending on infrastructure, renewable energy projects and conservation projects.
    Triss
    19th Jul 2020
    1:32pm
    They could also ease the pain by giving back the Future Fund money they nicked from the taxpayers. Quite a few billions I understand but that would adversely affect politicians’ pensions and perks.
    Farside
    19th Jul 2020
    6:53pm
    You could be forgiven for thinking that public and affordable housing would have been one of the first and most obvious stimulus programs, likewise infrastructure maintenance, and retraining schemes for skills, teaching and aged care. These are all labour intensive and quickly get money for spending into the hands of people. Complex programs that take years to get off the ground and are more capital than labour intensive are not stimulus.
    Incognito
    19th Jul 2020
    7:24pm
    I also think the new Jobtrainer is not going to work well, they are going to support short courses but not longer ones, a short course will not get you a job.
    Farside
    19th Jul 2020
    11:34pm
    JobTrainer could work if vocational short courses are linked to TAFE qualifications. I understand the unions are arguing JobTrainer should cover entire apprenticeships at a local TAFE and guarantee a 12 month job on completion. I rarely agree with the unions but in this case it seems sensible.

    The privatised RTO should not be beneficiaries of this public funding. We have already seen how these leeches have ripped off the public to create their own little empires in vocational employment. We must learn the lessons of the past and spend public dollars on public institutions that benefit the public.
    Incognito
    19th Jul 2020
    11:51pm
    I agree if the short courses are part of a longer qualification then it makes sense. The private course providers will love it either way. I would like to see more support for proper qualifications, otherwise it will just be token help and it will not help the unemployment situation without the jobs.
    Mez
    15th Jul 2020
    12:13pm
    I wish that I was getting $1100.00 per fortnight on the Age Pension!
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    2:21pm
    Mez, I doubt whether you were also envious while the unemployed were receiving a little over half the aged pension. The covid allowance will eventually be withdrawn and pensioners will once again receive much more than the unemployed.
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:05pm
    Age pension is not much less, don't forget many on those on Jobseeker/keeper have children and mortgages too or at least pay a lot of rent.
    Youngagain
    16th Jul 2020
    4:48pm
    I wish I was getting an age pension, Mez, instead of living off my limited savings until they reduce to far less than I am comfortable with given that I might have another 25 years to live with high health costs.
    Brissiegirl
    15th Jul 2020
    1:56pm
    We can ponder this 24/7 but the short reality is government income is quickly disappearing with the current huge reduction in taxation revenue. The government is now printing money. I feel the government has to put some time and effort into separating those who really need assistance, and those who can make it through with the support of family and friends. People living with parents, doing nothing all day and not even putting in some community work, don't deserve one dollar, imo.
    When all is said and done, government can't fund increases for everyone. We're heading for a depression. People will then find out what life's like when governments give nothing except ration books, and the lines for basic items go right around the block. Money in the bank will be worthless when manufacturers can't afford to make the stuff we want to buy. I have the feeling a large section of our population is far too reliant on hand-outs that will soon become un-fundable. Now that's a genuine cause for concern.
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:12pm
    All money is digital, they can spend as much as they like and never have to repay it back. We are already in a recession or depression whatever you want to call it. Unless you have been in a situation of accepting "hand outs" then you are only assuming what people's situations are about and what they do with their time.
    KSS
    15th Jul 2020
    3:38pm
    All very well to keep demanding more and more handouts, but wait for all the yells and whinging once the debt has to be repaid.

    Higher, broader GST? Fewer services? Higher taxes? Fewer subsidies in childcare and other family tax-backs? Less investment in healthcare, pensions, NDIS?

    This is NOT free money. Someone has to pay and inevitably it will be your children and grandchildren still paying the debt for decades to come.
    Incognito
    15th Jul 2020
    8:12pm
    Just digital money, they don't have to pay it back.
    Farside
    15th Jul 2020
    9:07pm
    inflation and time will take care of debt
    Triss
    19th Jul 2020
    1:51pm
    Yes, cut tax relief for the wealthy, cut foreign aid, we can’t afford it, kick pollies off their huge pensions and perks if they have other jobs, multiple homes, cut 30% off pollies ’ salaries, we can’t afford them nor did we agree to them, make sure all foreign companies are properly taxed
    Incognito
    19th Jul 2020
    1:54pm
    We cannot cut foreign aid it is important in relations with other countries and also to stop the spread of refugees. But agree we need to put a freeze on pollie's income. They are still getting paid even though they are not even meeting in parliament.


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