AUWU rejects unspeakably cruel JobSeeker rate cut

The government's announcement shows contempt for millions of unemployed people who need their support

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union rejects the government’s latest savage attack on unemployed people, with the slashed $615 per fortnight JobSeeker rate announced today set to trap 1.4 million people and their kids almost 50% below the poverty line.

This is not a raise it is a cut – a vicious cut that will be felt deeply by millions of vulnerable people. This heartless, politicised decision will entrench poverty and lock people out of work for years or decades, as we have seen in every past recession.

The government’s poverty machine is designed to crush us while funnelling billions from our welfare system into private organisations who brutalise us.

We will not go quietly or be cowed by this open attempt to beat us into submission. We will fight the Morrison government harder than we ever have before for social security above the poverty line and an end to the brutal ‘mutual’ obligations regime.

We need a meaningful increase that provides us with enough to cover the basics: regular meals, a safe place to live, healthcare and paying the bills on time.

The AUWU calls on the government to reverse this callous decision and has launched a new campaign to push for unemployment payments to be set at the poverty line of $80 a day.

We call on the Australian Labor Party to stop treating JobSeekers with disdain and #NameTheRate – it is time for Anthony Albanese to step up and be open about his position on our poverty.

The government’s plan is for 6% unemployment, which will leave about a million people and their kids stuck on unemployment payments. It is their responsibility to make sure everyone has enough to cover the basics.

We are disgusted that this announcement, which will ruin the lives and hopes of so many, is being used as a cynical tactic to distract from the government’s horrific mishandling of a rape allegation.

You can download this statement and all background information here: https://1drv.ms/w/s!Ao2X7nRblAZUhcJLn5Q6oeBVIZdK_g?e=qNRhij

Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at auwu.org.au

Kristin O’Connell, spokesperson for the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union said:

Our welfare system kills people. An unemployment payment that’s less than the poverty line of $80 per day is immoral.

The government showed last year that they can lift millions out of poverty overnight, and they can easily do the same now.

This rate cut is a direct attack by the Morrison government on nearly 2 million people and their kids. $100 per fortnight less in the budget doesn’t just mean fewer meals and late bills, it means harm to our physical and mental health.

The prime minister has repeatedly shown that his professed “top priority” of protecting our mental health and preventing suicide is a complete sham.

Poverty is a choice the government has made – we don’t believe the government should force anyone to live in poverty and we know the vast majority of Australians agree with us.

There are not enough jobs. Instead of handing billions of dollars to private organisations who bully, threaten and harass us, the government should be caring for people who are locked out of work.

The government needs to stop playing politics with our lives by trying to distract from its failure to respond appropriately to rape allegations, its failure to keep backbench MPs in check, and treat us with dignity.

Quotes from #80aDay supporters

The AUWU is gathering messages from #80aDay supporters about why keeping unemployed people out of poverty is important to them.

You can download their contributions here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KLJzvS_ggDfJsUeJKcNtnx4HKtyfqHTRm-Vp5uFO7xU/edit?usp=sharing

Permission has been given to share and quote these messages.

Background for journalists

  • There are 1,371,563 people on unemployment payments (JobSeeker and Youth Allowance Other) [1]

  • There are 162,670 jobs advertised on seek.com.au on 23 February 2021

  • 250,817 people (18.9%) in the jobactive system are disabled [2]

  • 296,514 people (21.6%) of people on an unemployment payment are more than 55 years old [3]

  • 244,793 people (19.8%) on the JobSeeker payment have a job [4]

  • 395,810 people (24.5%) on unemployment payments have been deemed to have “partial capacity to work”, meaning they have a medical reason or other circumstances that prevent them from working more than 15 hours per week [5]

  • 158,413 people (11.3%) on the JobSeeker payment are principal carers who are not paid for the caring work they do [6]

  • The average time people are stuck on an unemployment payment is 3.5 years, up from just over 2 years in 2014 [7]

While the COVID supplement was in place the JobSeeker rate was above the poverty line of $80 a day and:

  • 1.5% of rental properties were affordable [8]

  • 33% of people were still skipping meals due to a lack of funds [9]

  • 41.2% of people were still struggling to pay for medication, dental, psychology, physiotherapy and other healthcare costs [10]

[1] Department of Social Services monthly profile, Jan 2021: https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/jobseeker-payment-and-youth-allowance-recipients-monthly-profile

[2] Labour Market Information Portal employment regions summary data, Dec 2020: https://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/Downloads/EmploymentRegion

[3] Department of Social Services monthly profile, Jan 2021: https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/jobseeker-payment-and-youth-allowance-recipients-monthly-profile

[4] See previous footnote

[5] Department of Social Services demographic data, Sep 2020: https://data.gov.au/dataset/ds-dga-cff2ae8a-55e4-47db-a66d-e177fe0ac6a0/details

[6] See previous footnote

[7] See previous footnote

[8] Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot, Apr 2020: https://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=4

[9] ACOSS survey, Jun 2020: https://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/200624-I-Can-Finally-Eat-Fresh-Fruit-And-Vegetables-Results-Of-The-Coronaviru.._.pdf

[10] See previous footnote