Millions of unemployed Australians could be better off under new plans by the government to streamline multiple welfare payments into one.
The government has been examining ways to permanently increase the base JobSeeker rate when the $150 a fortnight coronavirus supplement ends on March 31 after coming under pressure from welfare groups.
One of the proposals being considering is axing a number of different welfare supplements or subsidies, in return for one, increased payment offsetting the loss of the extra top-ups, The Australian reported.
Some JobSeeker recipients are currently eligible for supplements that include pharmaceutical allowance, telephone allowance, literacy supplement and utilities allowances.
The federal government is looking at permanently increasing the JobSeeker rate after the $150 a fortnight coronavirus supplement ends on March 31. Pictured, people are seen lining up in Melbourne last year
Every recipient receives a fortnightly energy supplement. The top-up payments are worth as little as $4 a fortnight.
Those additional payments would all be scrapped as part of the measures to permanently boost the base rate of JobSeeker.
But rent assistance and family tax benefits are likely to remain under the reforms, which are still being thrashed out.
The government is adamant the coronavirus supplement with end as scheduled but has confirmed it has been considering it is looking to increase the rate of JobSeeker rather than allowing it to return to $40 a day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week flagged the government was looking at the welfare reform measure amid warnings reducing the dole payment will result in a national crisis.
A decision on what might replace the $150 per fortnight pandemic payment will be made by the end of March.
‘In terms of the rate and its future, we will consider that in the normal expenditure review committee process, and that’s what we’re doing right now,’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
Social advocacy body Anglicare Australia says its polling of service agencies across the country showed that 100 per cent of respondents said any cut will see more people needing help.
The federal government is reportedly examining axing multiple supplement payments in favour of providing one streamlined payment. Pictured, people are seen in long queues outside the Centrelink office in Southport, Gold Coast last year
New figures released Monday show 785,000 jobs were created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent
‘The old rate of JobSeeker was frozen for decades, leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poverty,’ Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said.
‘When the government raised the rate last year, it righted that wrong.’
Last April, the introduction of the coronavirus supplement effectively doubled the rate of JobSeeker to $557.85 per week.
The supplement was cut in September to leaving JobSeeker recipients with $407.85 per week and then that was reduced again in December to $357.85 per week.
Under the current JobSeeker rates, a single person with no children can earn up to a maximum of $715.70 a fortnight, which includes a base rate of $565.70 and the coronavirus supplement.
JobSeeker was introduced alongside JobKeeper, with the latter provided as a lifeline to businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions to help retain staff.
Recent figures from the Australian Taxation Office showed more than 2.13 million Australians were no longer receiving JobKeeper payments at the end of December.
There were 1.54 million employees eligible for the wage subsidy between October and December last year, down from 3.6 million between April and September.
The biggest decrease came in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia while Victoria reported the smallest decrease.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured) while welcoming figures showing a decrease in JobKeeper recipients said some sectors will need support once the pandemic-inspired scheme cuts out
‘What these numbers show is a broad based recovery in the Australian labour market much better than we expected, even through the pandemic last year,’ Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio on Monday.
JobKeeper registrations between the first phase (April to September) and second phase (October to December) were down in:
– Retail trade (68 per cent)
– Accommodation and food services (52 per cent)
– Education and training (50 per cent)
– Wholesale trade (71 per cent)
– Construction (48 per cent)
JobKeeper is set to end on March 28 – six months later than first planned – but Mr Frydenberg has conceded sectors like tourism, aviation and international education are still struggling and will need support once the pandemic-inspired scheme cuts out.
Mr Frydenberg said 785,000 jobs had been created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent in December.
But ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the education, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to be ‘smashed’ by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘What we say is JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by the coronavirus, through no fault of their own,’ she told the ABC.
Ms McManus said the support should continue ‘for as long as the pandemic is with us’.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government not only has to focus on supporting businesses through the pandemic but deal with the broader issues of stagnant wages, underemployment and job insecurity.
‘It’s not a recovery if it’s built on the back of less secure work or weaker wages growth.’