Nearly one million unemployed Australians will enjoy a $50 boost to their JobSeeker payments once the coronavirus supplement ends, the government is set to announce on Tuesday.
Scott Morrison is expected to announce a permanent increase to the dole for when the $150-a-fortnight boost to the payment expires on March 31 .
The prime minister is seeking cross-party endorsement for the permanent change, which would mean the payments would never return to their pre-pandemic $40-a-day.
It means dole-seekers will receive more than the original $560-a-fortnight for singles, which was in place before the pandemic, but lower than the current $710.
The government is set to announce the end of the coronavirus supplement first put in place in March of last year (pictured, people are seen in Centrelink queues in Gold Coast)
Mutual obligations will remain in place – meaning the unemployed will have to prove they are looking for a job and take part in work for the dole schemes, according to the AFR.
Those rules are set to get more strict in exchange for the higher payments, reports suggest.
There are 877,600 people unemployed nationally and 166,416 Youth Allowance recipients, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’s January figures.
The change will mark the end of the fortnightly supplement to JobSeeker first announced when the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year.
The supplement’s original rate was $550 a fortnight – effectively doubling the JobSeeker rate – before being reduced to $250 after six months and $150 from January 1.
The government is adamant the coronavirus supplement will end as scheduled, but confirmed it is looking to increase the rate of JobSeeker rather than allowing it to return to $40 a day.
‘In terms of the rate and its future, we will consider that in the normal expenditure review committee process, and that’s what we’re doing right now,’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
Social advocacy group Anglicare Australia said its polling of service agencies across the country showed 100 per cent of respondents said any cut would see more people needing help.
Pictured: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The government is instead expected to announce a small permanent increase to the pre-pandemic dole rate
New figures show 785,000 jobs were created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent
‘The old rate of JobSeeker was frozen for decades, leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poverty,’ Anglicare executive director Kasy Chambers said.
‘When the government raised the rate last year, it righted that wrong.’
The JobSeeker supplement was introduced alongside JobKeeper, with the latter provided as a lifeline to businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions to help retain staff.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured) while welcoming figures showing a decrease in JobKeeper recipients said some sectors will need support once the pandemic-inspired scheme cuts out
Recent figures from the Australian Taxation Office showed more than 2.13 million Australians were no longer receiving JobKeeper payments at the end of December.
There were 1.54 million employees eligible for the wage subsidy between October and December last year, down from 3.6 million between April and September.
The biggest decrease came in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia while Victoria reported the smallest decrease.
‘What these numbers show is a broad based recovery in the Australian labour market much better than we expected, even through the pandemic last year,’ Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio.
LATEST JOBKEEPER FIGURES
JobKeeper registrations between the first phase (April to September) and second phase (October to December) were down in:
– Retail trade (68 per cent)
– Accommodation and food services (52 per cent)
– Education and training (50 per cent)
– Wholesale trade (71 per cent)
– Construction (48 per cent)
JobKeeper will end on March 28 – six months later than first planned – but Mr Frydenberg conceded sectors like tourism, aviation and international education were still struggling and would need support once the pandemic-prompted scheme cuts out.
Mr Frydenberg said 785,000 jobs had been created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent in December.
But ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the education, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to be ‘smashed’ by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘What we say is JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by the coronavirus, through no fault of their own,’ she told the ABC.
Ms McManus said the support should continue ‘for as long as the pandemic is with us’.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government not only has to focus on supporting businesses through the pandemic but deal with the broader issues of stagnant wages, underemployment and job insecurity.
‘It’s not a recovery if it’s built on the back of less secure work or weaker wages growth.’