Unions call for $50 dole boost
DOLE payments should be boosted immediately by $50 a week, the ACTU argues, adding its voice to an unprecedented campaign – from groups as diverse as the Business Council of Australia to housing associations – to increase unemployment benefits.
Australia’s estimated 550,000 Newstart Allowance recipients get $245 a week – well below the poverty line, and less than half the minimum wage of $606.
A Senate inquiry is looking at whether dole payments should be boosted, and will report in November.
The ACTU, in its submission to the inquiry to be released today, argues the low level of dole payments is entrenching poverty among Australia’s most vulnerable, and damaging their mental and physical health.
It wants $50 added to payments from next year.
Australia’s unemployment allowance for singles is lower – as a proportion of average earnings – than the unemployment benefits of any other member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The ACTU argues that, while the national unemployment rate is around its lowest level since the 1970s, insecure casual and contract work have risen dramatically.
Meanwhile, unemployment benefits have grown in real terms by just 50¢ a day over the past 15 years, according to the Business Council of Australia, which also argues in its submission that the Newstart Allowance should be boosted immediately.
The dole now lags the aged and disability pensions by $103 per week, with these pensions now providing minimum support of $348 weekly.
The business council warns that, as the dole has fallen far behind other income support, it has prompted many to try to obtain these types of government payments, entrenching poverty even further.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said the dole was barely enough to live on, let alone pay the costs associated with finding a decent job. ”The rate now is so low it is just 18 per cent of average wages in Australia, and widely regarded among both the welfare and business communities as a major contributor to entrenching people into long-term poverty.”
The ACTU also wants an increase in the level at which payments start to be withdrawn when people begin casual or part-time work.