Albanese committee report calls for big increase to JobSeeker

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A report on the unemployment situation in Australia has received little attention, despite its critical importance as an indicator of the state of the Australian economy. Maybe releasing it on a Friday between ANZAC Day and the weekend facilitated this.

Coming from the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee of experts established by the Albanese government, one would think that it’s second report would have some importance. It’s been swept under the carpet instead, and the media has been mostly silent.

There is announced the up to $400 or roughly $40 per fortnight increase to JobSeeker payment. This does little to catch up for the slide in recent years alone.

Nonetheless, the report investigated certain relevant issues and produced 22 recommendations. A big one isa that JobSeeker payments should be increased substantially.

Unemployment continues to be at a high rate. The image below shows two different measures. That provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the more accurate one by Roy Morgan.

The lower ABS figure us the ones that governments obviously prefer. The Ray Mogan measure suggests that the problem is significantly worse than admitted. If this is the case, unemployment warrants far more serious attention than is being given.

Although the report debunked certain myths, and this is important, there was a failure to come to grips with the key drivers behind the problems. There is no connection with the state of the economy and a drive to minimise support for the unemployed and underemployed as wedges to push down the wages share of national income. Without facing this there will be no real change.

One of the issues covered is the reason why the level of unemployment benefits in Australia are so inadequate. The Committee said there is a prevailing atmosphere of antipathy to the unemployed. Which has produced a punitive response. Demonstratively false accusations are made, and both government and institutional responses reflect the antipathy and false accusations.

No mention is made of years of deliberate vilification of the unemployed at the hands of government and its agents. Noting is said about big media echoing of this vilification. Both were made for the purpose of manufacturing public opinion.

Left out is the reality of unequal economic power. Big business has the means to push through benefits for itself., and one of these is a bigger share of national income and taxpayer dollars, which can only come at the cost of wages and government services.

A closely related second issue is that higher unemployment payments create an incentive to not look for work. There is no credible evidence to back this claim according to the report. The current JobSeeker payment of $379 per week is far below the poverty level. Living on this is no easy option.

The body of evidence shows that higher unemployment benefits mean social inclusion, participation, and more discretionary spending, which is good for the economy and creates jobs.

Compared to other remotely similar countries, the income provided by Jobseeker is incredibly small, and the lowest in the other developed nations in the OECD. There is no evidence in these countries that their higher payments lead to so-called unemployment lifestyle choices.

A third issue is why the gap between JobSeeker and the Age Pension has been growing. The answer given is inaction caused by a complex historical process and this not being a matter of priority. This is compounded by the fact that the unemployed are denied basic supplementary payments.

This doesn’t mean that the age pension is high. It too falls well below the poverty line and is inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living. This goes to show just how tough it is in Australia to be unemployed.

The Committee called for other changes, such as increasing rent assistance payments, a “full scale redesign” of Australia’s unemployment system, and for the implementation of a national early childhood development system that enables parent participation in the job market. There is a call for a renewal of the culture and practice of Australia’s social security system, which turns away from punishment and embraces the growth of economic inclusion and wellbeing.

By embracing these recommendations, the Albanese government will begin the journey towards can take the first step in eliminating this stain in Australia. But this won’t progress far without addressing the inequality in economic power and the impact it has on politics. There is little sign so far that the Albanese has any appetite to take this on. and this looks like a good reason why the report of its own committee has not been taken seriously.

Taking on power inequality can lead to new answers that go past the needed increase in income support, to embrace more extensive job creation projects, and measures that help individuals back into the workforce through direct assistance into accessible quality training and helping communities to generate new collective projects that create employment providing enterprises. Imagine what could be achieved.

1 Comment on "Albanese committee report calls for big increase to JobSeeker"

  1. I’m underemployed I’m 54 this month and finding it hard to get more work after my bills are paying um left with nothing i even go without toilet paper and other basic essentials can’t even afford to get a haircut for a job interview you just feel worthless and helpless trying to survive and get work in jobseeker in a cost of living crisis jobseeker needs to go up inline with the pension I no my health has declined like thousands of people’s health has

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