Australia’s leading economist, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, has reiterated his support for increasing the rate of JobSeeker permanently, as the Government moves to cut it on 31 March.
Speaking on Wednesday, Lowe said that while the RBA has not yet modelled the consequences of a reversion to the pre-COVID rate of JobSeeker, he agreed there was a “wide consensus in the community” that JobSeeker should be increased permanently.
"I've said on previous occasions that I would join that consensus."
He noted that unemployment is higher than it has been for nearly 20 years, and warned that it will likely increase once the JobKeeper subsidy is removed.
The Coronavirus Supplement worth $550 a fortnight originally doubled the JobSeeker payment, however that has now fallen to $150 a fortnight, and unless the Government acts to change the rate, JobSeeker will slide to $565.70 a fortnight for those without children, or $40.40 a day.
According to the Services Australia website, this is the likely outcome.
“From 1 April 2021, your payment will change to the normal JobSeeker payment rate for your situation,” its website reads.
Lowe is only the latest to join the calls for JobSeeker to be increased, joining former Liberal prime minister John Howard, the Labor and Greens, unions and social advocacy groups in the huge push.
Deloitte modelling has shown that a return to that rate will strip $31.3 billion from the economy and 145,000 jobs from the workforce within two years.
And an interim report from a Senate inquiry on the response to the pandemic also endorsed a permanent increase to the unemployment benefit.
“It has been widely acknowledged for years, by business and community stakeholders alike that the permanent rate of JobSeeker at $40 a day is totally inadequate, often forcing recipients to live well below the poverty line.
“The committee agrees that the original rate of JobSeeker is inadequate,” the report read.
Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the Government should raise the rate permanently to avoid undoing the good done during the pandemic.
“The increased rate meant that people, including families were able to afford their rent and still have enough left over for fresh fruit and vegetables, to visit the dentist or catch up on bills,” Goldie said.
“With only 1 job for every 9 people searching, the insecurity is wreaking havoc on people’s mental health and leaving them to face the heart-breaking decision of whether they’ll be able to afford to continue living in their home.
“Business, unions, the community sector, economists and the community all agree that JobSeeker must be permanently lifted.”