Shocking new data shared exclusively with Starts at 60 has revealed that older Aussies are actually spending longer on the dole than unemployed people in their 20s, debunking the “myth” that Newstart is a young person’s payment.
The findings, collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and analysed by The Benevolent Society, revealed that there were 174,532 Aussies aged 55 to 64 signed on, compared to 156,664 between the ages of 25 and 34.
While there are more older Aussies simply in receipt of the benefit, the data also showed that unemployed Australians, aged 60-64, remain on the unemployment benefit for an average of 187 weeks before signing off, compared to 104 weeks for those aged 25-29.
And, whereas ‘signing off’ for younger generations means the recipient has landed a job, in many cases with older Aussies the ceasing of payments can often be explained by a transition to the Age Pension, after reaching the age of 65.
Joel Pringle from The Benevolent Society told Starts at 60 that these figures show an alarming number of older people are “stuck on Newstart in the years leading up to retirement”, which then contributes to the increasing problem of pension poverty suffered by recipients of the Age Pension.
“What we’re hearing from financial counsellors is that people are having to sell their homes, people are running down their super before retirement and then they’re back on the pension,” he said. “I think that’s really the story coming out of these statistics.”
The Benevolent Society are backing the ‘Raise the Rate’ campaign and have called on the government to increase the current rate of Newstart and made recommendations, such as access to free dentistry for all recipients, that they believe would help to alleviate the problem.
“The Benevolent Society is supporting the campaign to increase the rate of Newstart because it’s at punishment level and is affecting people across all age groups,” Pringle added. “It’s a myth that it’s a young person’s payment and it’s one of the drivers for poverty for people who are on the Age Pension because they’ve lost all of their assets in the years prior.
“Financial counsellors have been telling us these stories about their clients coming to them at pension age or before pension age and they’ve lost their jobs, you know, the industry has closed down or they can’t get work because of the ageism that people face trying to get a job. This is really the data that shows that it’s true.”
Pringle added that these figures could actually be under-representative as he said that “pride” amongst older generations can often cause reluctance when it comes to asking for help. Adding that the stigma linked to the dole
“We know that older people are less likely to seek assistance,” he continued. “Because a lot of people do have savings that they’ve put aside over their life times, they’re more likely to run that down, even if they are eligible for Newstart, until they have to.
“A lot of people of older generations have pride about their independence, also if they’ve worked their whole lives they don’t know how to seek assistance and they don’t see themselves as people who should or are eligible and think ‘I can ride this out’ until of course they can’t.
“And with Newstart there is a bit of shame, unfortunately, that people feel and they think it’s not apparent to them, even though they might really need those payments and that’s what it’s there for.”
Starts at 60 readers are among those who struggle to get by on the rate of Newstart, with one blasting the “wealthy government” for it being so low. He said: “Newstart is half the pension rate, its about their economic plan. Steal from the poor and enrich themselves and their wealthy mates.”
Another told us: “I was born in July 1955 as it stands now I can’t get the age pension til I’m 66 and a half. Really hard living on Newstart payments.”
To find out more about the Fix Pension Poverty campaign, a collaboration between The Benevolent Society and National Seniors, click here.