From March, the Australian Government will progressively introduce a series of permanent measures in relation to the JobSeeker unemployment payment, which they claimed would ensure that ‘job seekers have the best opportunity to secure employment’ as Australia recovers from the economic challenges of COVID-19.

These include:

  • permanently increasing the rate of working-age payments by $50 a fortnight to $615.70 from 1 April 2021, benefiting 1.95 million Australians;
  • permanently increasing the income-free earnings to $150 per fortnight for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) from 1 April 2021;
  • temporarily extending the waiver of the Ordinary Waiting Period for certain payments for a further three months to 30 June 2021;
  • temporarily extending the expanded eligibility criteria for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) for those required to self-isolate or care for others as a result of COVID-19 to 30 June 2021.

There will also be changes to the Mutual Obligation Scheme:

  • job seekers will be required to search for a minimum of 15 jobs a month from early April, increasing to 20 jobs per month from 1 July;
  • an employer reporting line will be established to refer Jobseekers who are not genuine about their job search or decline the offer of a job;
  • some job seekers will be required to participate in work for the dole after six months;
  • job seekers can choose to participate in an approved intensive short course instead of participating in work for the dole;
  • job seekers return to compulsory face-to-face services with Jobactive providers;
  • increased auditing of job applications to ensure job seekers are making genuine applications.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the plan for working age payments is fair and sustainable – for both unemployed people and taxpayers who fund the support.

“Welfare is a safety net, not a wage supplement. We want to get the balance right between providing support for people and incentives to work,” the Prime Minister said.

“The actions we have taken this year successfully cushioned us against the impact of the pandemic and mean that we no longer need to rely on the emergency supports which have sustained us over the past 12 months.”

“Now is the time to set our nation up for the future and build on our successes which will see Australians once again emerge stronger, safer and together.”

The measures are estimated to cost $9 billion over the forward estimates.

ACOSS response

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has slammed the Government’s JobSeeker decision as ‘devastating’, saying it is a cut to the current income of income support recipients and is a measly $3.57 a day more than the brutal old Newstart rate.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“This is a heartless betrayal of millions of people with the least, including hundreds of thousands of children, single parents, people with disability, older people, students, people dealing with illness and injury, and others relying on income support.”

“[T]he Government has turned its back on those with the least, plunging people further into poverty. It’s a cruel decision that shows a complete lack of humanity and empathy. It comes as devastating news for so many and will have serious consequences for people’s lives, including homelessness and crushing debt.”

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the courageous people on JobSeeker who have bravely shared their stories. Across the community sector, we are determined to continue working with people on JobSeeker, standing with them to continue to strongly advocate for what we know is right.”

“Already, at $51 a day with the temporary Coronavirus Supplement, people on JobSeeker are currently being forced to make impossible decisions, choosing between housing, food, medications, basic toiletries and paying bills.”

“Now, come the end of next month, they are expected to struggle on even less – just $44 a day to cover the essentials of life, including rent, as well as the cost of job searching.

“There is only one job available for every nine people looking and at $44 a day the Government’s announcement … is well under half the minimum wage.”

The JobSeeker payment was temporarily lifted to about $1,100 per fortnight between April and September 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The payment had since been gradually scaled back and is now $715.50 per fortnight, which includes a $150 supplement. The community sector has been calling for the Government to permanently increase the JobSeeker base rate by $150 per fortnight.


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