The Albanese government is set to raise the jobseeker rate for individuals over 55, with the goal of easing financial pressures for long-term unemployed people and women.
The initial increase will apply only to those over 55, with a potential for a broader rise in the future.
The decision comes after senior ministers on the expenditure review committee reversed their stance, following the government’s dismissal of a recommendation for a significant increase in the payment.
The jobseeker increase is just one of several measures to reduce poverty, including extending children’s eligibility for single-parent payments and potential adjustments to rent assistance.
The top-up payments are expected to benefit approximately 227,000 people and will be accompanied by other Centrelink changes. Despite this, welfare advocates are disappointed that the increase falls short of the $100 a week they hoped for.
Individuals aged 60 and above who have been on Jobseeker for over nine months are eligible for a higher rate of $745 per fortnight. This is in contrast to the $693 rate for single individuals without children under 60.
The Antipoverty Centre has called the proposed increase only for individuals over 55 “a breathtakingly cruel and cynical move.”
Restricting a JobSeeker increase to people over 55 would be a breathtakingly cruel and cynical move.
— Antipoverty Centre (@antipovertycent) May 1, 2023
But Treasurer Jim Chalmers has defended the decision to raise Jobseeker payments for those over 55s, telling ABC Radio the upcoming budget “will focus on the most vulnerable people“.
“First of all, the jobseeker payment already makes a distinction between workers closer to the age pension, older workers, it already pays a different rate at the moment for people over 60. And that’s in recognition that it is harder to find a new job at that end of your working life. That’s the first point,” Chalmers says.
“The second point is related. All of the expert advice a lot of the analysis I’ve heard it on your show, and it’s been right, says that the group that’s most likely to be long-term unemployed – people over 55 – that that group is dominated by women that the most vulnerable part of the unemployed population in Australia is at the moment women over 55. And so that’s another issue that people need to factor in.
“The third one is that no government can satisfy all of the calls for more spending in the budget even from people and from groups whose views we welcome and respect.”
Chalmers further explained that the decision to focus on individuals aged 55 and above is based on reports from the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce and the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, which have highlighted the vulnerability of women over 55 among unemployed Australians.
“…There will be a number of elements to our cost-of-living relief. Not all of them will be determined by age, for example, our energy bill relief plan, which will be in the budget in a week’s time, is for people on pensions and payments right across the board, not limited by age,” he said.
“So I encourage people to wait and see what’s in the budget to see how it applies to different people. But the overwhelming priority for the government is to provide this substantial cost-of-living relief in a way that prioritises the most vulnerable.”