When COVID-19 hit Australia, there was quick and effective action to ensure that people in Australia would not only be safe from the virus, but would also be safe from extreme hardship.

The government introduced temporary support for those affected by unemployment by adding the Coronavirus supplement of $500 per fortnight to the JobSeeker payment - formerly known as the Newstart Allowance - effectively doubling the rate of JobSeeker. But this support was temporary, with the Coronavirus Supplement reduced in September by $300 per fortnight and in December by a further $100 per fortnight. The current $150 per fortnight rate is set to end on 31 March 2021. Legislation before the parliament sets out a permanent increase to unemployment payments of just $50 a fortnight. That’s just $25 a week or $3.57 a day.

The pre-pandemic rate was well below the poverty line. It meant recipients had to live on just $40* a day – not enough to even cover life’s basics like rent, food and medicine.

67% of recipients of JobSeeker at the pre-pandemic rate were living in poverty.

With the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus supplement that figure fell just 7%, but the withdrawal of support has seen numbers in poverty rise. The proposed increase of just $3.57 a day does nothing to address poverty.

While there are some signs of economic recovery, it is unequal and bumpy. With 1.4 million people relying on unemployment payments, the impacts of the crisis continue to be felt. 

Without job security and adequate social security, hundreds of thousands of Australians will be plunged even further into poverty.

Each one of us, at any time, can find ourselves suddenly without a job. When we fall out of employment, we need a fair and adequate social security safety net to catch us.

We’re calling on the Federal Government to establish an independent body to review the structure and rates of payments and recommend a fair and adequate increase to income support.

Let’s not go backwards. It’s time to #RaisetheRateforGood.

1.4 million people rely on unemployment payments

With the end of the JobKeeper program, unemployment is likely to rise.

We know that an increasing proportion of unemployed people have ill-health or disability, many are older people consigned to a netherworld between work and retirement – considered to be too old to work but too young to retire. Inadequate income support condemn them to poverty and undermine their efforts to seek work.

The current crisis is a stark reminder that unemployment and underemployment can happen to any of us at any time.

The extra income provided by the Coronavirus Supplement  helped people live with dignity . For single mums and people who were long-term unemployed, the increased payment rate meant not having to worry about every cent or where the next meal was coming from. For the first time, many families we work with have finally been able to visit the dentist, fix the car, and turn the heating on during the winter.

All of us benefit from a fair and adequate social security system

A system that leaves people behind is not only bad for those people, it’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for society - it’s bad for all of us.

Inequality costs . These costs can be widespread and long-lasting, affecting individuals and communities now and in the future. As well as creating greater strain on health, community and education sectors, it means that people have less money to spend in their local communities. With small businesses and industries struggling, adequate income support helps to stimulate local economies.

An effective social security system not only helps individuals going through tough times but, ultimately, helps everyone. We urge the government to invest in a social security system that can meet current and future challenges.

* Jobseeker allowance single adult no child

Let’s Raise the Rate for Good

1 million Australians are waking up without work. Any one of us could be next.