The impact of COVID-19 on JobSeeker Payment recipient numbers by electorate, Parliamentary Library Research Paper Series, 2020-21

By Michael Klapdor (Social Policy Section) & Christopher Giuliano (Statistics and Mapping Section)

This Statistical Snapshot provides summary information on the main income support payments for the unemployed, key changes to these payments made as part of the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19, and an analysis of which electorates have been most affected by changes in income support recipient numbers.

Key findings

  • In the period December 2019 to May 2020, the number of people in receipt of the main income support payments for the unemployed doubled—from around 820,000 to 1,640,000.
  • The main unemployment-related income support payments are JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other). JobSeeker Payment replaced Newstart Allowance and a number of other payments on 20 March 2020.
  • Job losses and reduced working hours resulting from government measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus have been the main driver of the increase in income support recipients.
  • A number of other factors have also affected recipient numbers including policy changes to expand eligibility for payments in response to COVID-19, the economic impact of the 2019–20 bushfires in many parts of Australia, and the introduction of the JobKeeper Payment (a wage subsidy).
  • Increases in the number of JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other) have varied significantly between electorates. Electorates in south-east Queensland, western Sydney and Melbourne’s west have seen some of the largest increases in the total number of recipients of these payments.
  • These electorates also saw a significant increase in the percentage of the estimated working age population receiving JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other).
  • Electorates in Sydney’s eastern and northern suburbs, as well as Melbourne’s eastern suburbs have seen the largest percentage increases, but are coming off a low base of recipient numbers prior to 2020.

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