Media Release: Jobs Summit must lead to improved economic security for low-income women

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Organisations representing people on low incomes go to the ‘Lifting Participation and Reducing Barriers to Employment Roundtable’ today held by Minister Amanda Rishworth with a clear message that the government must move away from compliance and prioritise economic security for people on the lowest incomes, particularly low-income women.

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC), Economic Justice Australia (EJA) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) will today urge the Federal Government to implement policies that boost economic security for people who have been left behind. There are almost 1.5 million people – 60% of whom are women – living on income support payments that are inadequate to cover the cost of essentials.

We need to ensure that income support is sufficient to cover basic costs, which will also support people looking for paid work to get a secure job. Lifting income support is crucial to supporting women’s economic security, particularly for single parents and women escaping domestic violence.

Today’s ABS gender indicators show that women continue to fall behind men in terms of income, with women’s full-time average weekly earnings almost $250pw less than that of men, representing a 14% gender pay gap.

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children CEO Terese Edwards said: “We are asking that the Government reset the national picture. The possibilities are endless if we view single mothers as an asset. For too long we have expected women to work as if they don’t have children and to parent as if they don’t have paid work. We ignore the additional demands and cost of single mothering; we don’t value unpaid care or address the economic consequences of gendered violence. A lack of financial resources does not mean a lack of ambition or future planning.”

Economic Justice Australia CEO Leanne Ho said: “The social security system is not fit for purpose. Instead of supporting people to move out of a crisis, in many cases it exacerbates the crisis. Penalties for non-compliance with mutual obligations and the stress of dealing with Centrelink intensifies problems, does not solve them and acts as a barrier to employment. Moving single parents and people living with a disability onto social security payments where their payments can be suspended exposes vulnerable people to poverty and homelessness. This undermines, rather than supports, their ability to find suitable employment, and is arguably in breach of Australia’s human rights obligations. The system needs to address barriers to entering or rejoining the workforce and move away from a focus on compliance monitoring and imposing penalties.”

ACOSS Acting CEO Edwina MacDonald said: “We know that people on unemployment payments who are looking for a job desperately want to get a job. But the reality is most people on JobSeeker are struggling to eat enough food and to keep a roof over their heads. This is why inadequate income support acts as a barrier to employment – it’s hard to put your best foot forward job hunting when you can’t afford enough food.”

“We need to remember that not everyone on JobSeeker is able to get paid work or work full-time because of illness, disability or care responsibilities. Four in ten people on JobSeeker have a partial work capacity because of illness or disability. One in ten are principal carers – the vast majority of whom are women. To boost economic security, especially for women, the government must ensure income support payments are adequate to meet basic costs, which means increasing them to at least $70 a day.”

For comment, contact:
Terese Edwards, CEO, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children: 0439 211 493
Leanne Ho, CEO, Economic Justice Australia: 0448 007 201
Media contact: Australian Council of Social Service: 0419 626 155