No jobs and no income: time to increase payments for jobseekers

adminSocial security rights review

In February 2015, there were over 870,000 people receiving unemployment benefits, according to new data from the Department of Social Services (DSS). With one job opportunity for every five people looking for work, the competition for jobs is fierce.  National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) looks at what needs to be done to provide people out of work with a dignified future.

The Federal Government must deliver on its promise of an effective and sustainable jobs plan for all Australians. New payments data from the DSS reveals that in February 2015 there are over 870,037 people relying on unemployment payments, including 760,149 Newstart Allowance recipients and 109,888 Youth Allowance recipients. In the previous 12 months, the number of people out of work increased from 849,224.

The number of long-term job seekers increased by 11.5%, from 251,800 to 280,864 in the previous 12 months.

The Budget in May needs to deliver a new skills and training package for young people and Indigenous job seekers.

We hope that more employers will open their doors for mature age job seekers, as there are almost 200,000 people aged over 50 on Newstart Allowance.  Older workers, along with single parents and long term unemployed people would benefit from a better-funded wage subsidy program, which has shown to be twice as effective at getting people into jobs than the costly Work For The Dole programs.

With unemployment at a 12-year high, it is young people who are bearing the brunt of the unemployment crisis. The national youth unemployment rate (for 15–24-year-olds) was at 14.2% in January. This is more than twice the overall national unemployment rate (6.3%).

The reality is that there are simply not enough jobs to go around for every person who wants one. 

The existing labour market conditions show tight competition for the available jobs. In December there were nearly 795,000 job seekers registered as seeking work in Job Service Australia providers and around 152,000 advertised vacancies per month. That is five registered job seekers competing for each advertised position. The average job seeker is aged 37 years, while the average length of time of registration with a job services member is more than two years (26 months). A single unemployed adult struggles to make ends meet on an impossibly low amount of just $260 a week.

Australia cannot continue to let people continue to live on such low rates of payment any longer. The recent McClure Welfare Review failed to propose a solution the biggest problem with our social security system, which is the inadequate level of income available to people while they search for work.

It is positive that the Government may consider up-front investments to assist young people and others facing complex health and personal issues, but people also need an adequate income here and now.