The Australian Government should increase the JobSeeker Payment to ensure all eligible recipients don’t live in poverty, a Senate Inquiry report has said.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee revealed that throughout the inquiry it received “compelling evidence” that the rates of income support payments for working-age job-seekers were inadequate.
“Significantly, the committee found that the income support system is not meeting its objective of ensuring a minimum standard of living for working-age jobseekers, as too many live in poverty,” the review stated.
It revealed Australia has one of the lowest unemployment benefit rates in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, at $559 per fortnight for a single person without dependents, or just $40 a day.
“The committee recommends that once the Coronavirus Supplement is phased out, the Australian Government increase the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment rates to ensure that all eligible recipients do not live in poverty,” the Senate recommended.
It comes as the Prime Minister revealed he was seemingly standing firm on returning JobSeeker to its pre-coronavirus levels once the pandemic subsides.
When asked whether the increased level of JobSeeker would extend further than six months, the prime minister said: “We put a Covid supplement in place for the period of the pandemic and that's what we've budgeted for and that's what our policy is.”
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No definition of ‘minimum standard of living’
The Senate report found that the government did not have a definition of what constitutes a ‘minimum standard of living’, making it tough for the government to make policy.
“The primary purpose of an income support system is to ensure a minimum standard of living,” the report stated.
“The issue is that there is no official government definition or position on what constitutes a minimum standard of living. Importantly, there is no measure to benchmark rates of income support payments against an acceptable minimum standard of living.”
Compared to other poverty lines, like the OECD measure and the Henderson Poverty Line, which is set at $529.81 per week, JobSeeker did not fare well.
“The evidence received by the committee clearly shows that the current rates of income support payments significantly contribute to the rising number of people living in poverty,” the report stated.
The Coalition dissents
The Coalition dissented, saying it did not endorse the recommendations contained within the Committee’s report.
“Income support for unemployed people in Australia does not function as a wage replacement or as part of contributory or time limited schemes, as is the case in some other countries,” the dissent stated.
“It is a safety net for people while they look for work, set to a minimum standard to support living rather than a payment set to a replacement level or otherwise tied to wages or income.”