PM’s JobSeeker changes revealed
More than 1.95 million Aussies on the dole will receive a boost of $50 a fortnight, or $3.57 a day, under welfare reforms unveiled.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced a rise to the rate of the JobSeeker payment at a cost of $9 billion.
The move follows a long-running campaign from welfare advocates, who say unemployed Australians cannot not live on $40 a day.
The base rate of JobSeeker is currently $570.80 a fortnight. But pressure has been mounting on the government to raise the rate with the $150 coronavirus supplement for welfare recipients ending in late March.
From April 1, jobseekers, single parents and young people on welfare payments receive $25 extra a week.
- JobSeeker recipients will get $620.80 a fortnight
- JobSeeker recipients getting Commonwealth rent assistance will get $760.40 a fortnight
- Single parents with a child under the age of eight will receive $850.20 a fortnight
- People on JobSeeker, over the age of 60, or who care for a child over the age of 8 will receive $676.30 a fortnight, including the energy supplement
Mr Morrison said the government enhanced the social safety net with the COVID supplement to ensure it could respond to the overwhelming demand placed on it as people found themselves unemployed because of the pandemic.
“We are now confident that at the end of next month that our social safety net can once again be able to provide the support it needs to Australians as we come out of the COVID-19 recession,” he said.
“But we’ve also formed the view that that base level of support that exists within our social safety net needs to be adjusted for the long term.
“That will lead to an increase of $50 per fortnight in that base payment.”
The boost is the single biggest increase since 1986 and raises the rate from 37.5 per cent to 41.2 per cent of the national minimum wage.
Under further changes, the income-free area will also be raised by $150 per fortnight for people on JobSeeker and youth allowance.
The one-week waiting period to receive welfare will also be extended until June 30.
Jobseekers will now need to apply for 15 jobs a month, up from eight, and this will increase to 20 come July.
After six months on welfare people will also be required to enhance their employability with a shortcourse or work experience.
A ‘dob in’ line will also be established for employers to report people who are offered a job they are qualified for but turn down.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the employer will be able to contact her department, which would prompt a follow-up with the individual.
“In the event that they do not have a valid reason, they will be breached for that,” Senator Cash said.
“We will, at the same time, be increasing the number of audits of our job providers.”
Meantime, CPA Australia welcomed the permanent increase in the rate of JobSeeker but said the amount of the rise “may not be sufficient”.
CPA Australia Chief Executive Officer Andrew Hunter said: “For many unemployed workers the JobSeeker payment doesn’t provide adequate support or security. An increase was overdue before the pandemic”.
GetUp National Director Paul Oosting said raising JobSeeker by $3.50 a day is inadequate. “This isn’t a raise in the JobSeeker rate — it’s a half-arsed PR exercise that will entrench poverty and disadvantage for more than 1.2 million Australians who depend on JobSeeker to survive,” he said.
“The Morrison Government has thrown people on JobSeeker some crumbs and called it a raise. What it really is an insult.”
It comes as The Australian has also learned a major welfare reform package is now being shelved due to long term budget implications.
Streamlining the income support payment system into a single increased payment for unemployed Australians and abolishing up to a dozen other supplements or subsidies available to recipients was previously the favoured option.
A meeting of the expenditure review committee last Friday decided to scrap the wider reform proposal — opting to increase the JobSeeker payment instead.
It is also understood there was resistance from some members of the committee to such a reform package because many of the supplementary payments were not accessed by all recipients and bundling them into a single payment could place additional structural pressure on the budget.
The welfare lobby, Labor and the Reserve Bank have all backed a permanent increase to the dole.
Before the introduction of the coronavirus supplement, which began last March at $550 a fortnight before being tapered down to $150 a fortnight, the base rate of JobSeeker payments sat at $565 a fortnight for a single non-renter who did not have any dependants.
Labor maintains the rate of JobSeeker needs to be increased but will not commit to a figure.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said it was crucial that job creation plans were coupled with a “permanent and adequate increase” to the JobSeeker payment.
“We cannot leave people behind to struggle in the poverty trap as we get through this crisis,” Dr Goldie said.
Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told a Senate committee he did not know how many of the 1.6 million workers supported by the scheme would be jobless following March 28.
“It’s very hard to predict exactly how many will go,” Dr Kennedy said.
“We expected the unemployment rate to peak at 7.5 (per cent) in March. That looks unlikely to me now.”
Originally published as PM’s JobSeeker changes revealed