Low pay and unemployment benefits not enough for even frugal existence

Detailed photo of shoes with holes in them and toes sticking out child kid young
Contributed by Ben Wilson

A study funded by the Australian Research Council, Catholic Social Services Australia and, United Voice and the Australian Council of Social Service, has come along with a better way to determine the level of income necessary to ensure everyone, a fully healthy life.

The study, carried out by Professor Peter Saunders and Megan Bedford of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, has just been launched and it contains budget standards for unemployed and low paid Australians, based on a basket of goods and services for different sized families at these income levels, without allowance for modest luxuries and wastage kept at a minimum. Only what is required for basic needs is considered.

The unemployed are not even considered as needing to own a car.

To achieve this level of income, a single adult would need to spend $600 a week. A couple with no children would need $830. Add a child of six and that rises to $970. Add a second child, of 10, and it’s up to $1170. A sole parent working part-time, with a child, would need to spend $830 a week.

Let’s take a couple with two children. Their biggest expense would be rent, $460 a week for a three-bedroom unit in an outer suburb. Then $200 for food, $140 for transport, $140 for household goods and services, $80 for recreation (swimming lessons; bit of sport for the kids), $60 for education, $40 for personal care, $30 for clothing and footwear and $20 a week for out-of-pocket healthcare.

The budget standards for unemployed families are, perforce, a lot tighter.

Whereas the low-paid were assumed to shop at Woolworths and Kmart, unemployed people in the focus groups used to check the realism of the standards said they couldn’t afford such stores and went to Aldi and discount stores. They chase specials and collect discount vouchers, make things last longer and waste nothing.

Even with this frugality, an unemployed single adult needs $430 a week. A couple without children needs $660, but that rises by $110 to $770 with one child, then by a further $170 to $940 with a second child. An unemployed sole parent with one child needs $680 a week.

According to the study, those on Newstart receive an income that is nowhere near the measure. This can be extended to those on other Centrelink benefits.

Singles who have jobs, but are on minimum wages, barely scrape past the miserly minimum living standard. Those with families fall below.

This study shows that a lot of Australians are not doing too well at present and his contradicts the notion of a fair go nation.

It also answers the claim made too often by politicians and the plainly ignorant that the unemployed are living the good life, at the expense of everyone else.

The research carried out at the Social Policy Research Centre, contributes to a better understanding of what it is like to not have sufficient income in Australia and strengthen the case against scapegoating the less fortunate and for a major overhaul to the redistribution of income, towards those that need to be lifted most of all.

3 Comments on "Low pay and unemployment benefits not enough for even frugal existence"

  1. Judith Griffith | 25 August 2017 at 7:31 am | Reply

    All those on low incomes are the backbone of this nation. Should they all stop work for one week , this country would be on it’s knees…..It is time for the basic wage to be increasedby a minimum of 25% for these people to just take a breath of fresh air.

  2. Michael Fairweather | 27 August 2017 at 6:24 pm | Reply

    This Turdbull Government has never done a days work in their lives, so they have no idea what family’s and pensioners need to live on. Here in Perth we have a good transport system for those who live on the route but if you dont you need a car, as simple as that. But to put people on these cashless cards is not on and yes we will see more and more people commit suicide when trying to live on them.

  3. There are somewhere between 17 – 19 unemployed Australians for every job vacancy. Do the math! Yet the LNP insult, humiliate and punish the jobless at every turn.

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