$50 JobSeeker rise not enough and other supports needed, says COTA Australia

The Federal Government’s announcement of a $50 per fortnight boost to the JobSeeker payment is welcome as the first real term increase in 26 years, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has said, but is not enough to prevent job seekers, including thousands of older Australians, falling into poverty.

“Any permanent increase to JobSeeker is good news for unemployed Australians,” says Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia.

“However, the need for a substantial rise in the unemployment payment is more urgent than an ever given the COVID pandemic. In March last year we called for a permanent $150 per fortnight increase to the payment, and that is still what’s needed for people to meet the basic costs of living.

“We also acknowledge the ACOSS-led ‘Raise the Rate for Good’ campaign, which has modelled increases above this amount that would have lifted people out of poverty.

“With nine unemployed persons for every job available, past economic downturns tell us that it is older workers who will be left on unemployment benefits the longest. Indeed many will never work again.”

For a single person the JobSeeker base rate will rise to $620.80 a fortnight, with potential total support of $773.43 including full rent allowance and benefits.

“More than half of the people receiving the JobSeeker allowance are over 45,” says Mr Yates. “There is an array of social and structural factors which prevent them from finding gainful employment through no fault of their own, not least of which is blatant age discrimination by employers.

“The Liquid Assets Waiting Period must also be immediately abolished for mature age unemployed people. Australians who are out of work should not be forced to spend their retirement savings before receiving the JobSeeker allowance. This is a senseless reduction of their assets that will impact on their retirement.

“We again call on the Government to include mature age people within the JobMaker program, which is now incentivising employers to favour younger people over equally vulnerable older workers. This is a clear case of blatant age discrimination.

“The Government’s next priority must be increasing the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 40%. The chronic shortage of affordable homes, both in capital cities and regional areas, has left tens of thousands of people struggling to put a roof over their head. The private rental market is still beyond the reach of many, and it is common sense that the rental assistance rate must reflect this.”

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