The number of older Australians receiving benefits from the government is rising rapidly, raising fresh concerns about the Turnbull government’s plan to cut unemployment benefits.
New figures from the Department of Social Services show there are now 241,000 people in their 50s and 60s collecting Newstart – up by more than 40,000 in just two years and more than 100,000 since 2012.
That means 31.5 per cent of the 768,000 Australians on Newstart are aged over 50, when long-term unemployment is much more common due to changes to traditional industries and the barriers to retraining.
The number is also going up proportionally, from 25 per cent of over-50s in 2012 when the overall figure was 138,000.
The growth rate is dramatically higher than the growth in the number of over-50s in the general population.
The ballooning numbers raise new concerns about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s bid to axe a supplement – introduced by Labor – for anyone who applies for Newstart after September 20.
The supplement was introduced by Labor to compensate households that paid no tax for the impact of the carbon price.
The government argues with the carbon price gone the compensation should be cut too, however the middle class tax cuts associated with the tax are not being touched.
Critics say cutting the clean energy supplement will create a two-tiered system in which the newly unemployed will be paid a record low of 32 per cent below the poverty line. The $1.4 billion cut was announced in this year’s budget going against the advice even of business groups.
The base Newstart rate for singles is $263.80 – a paltry $37.70 a day. The supplement adds $4.40 a week.
This is in stark comparison to the recent news that the pollies have been spending taxpayers dollars shamelessly, including the Prime Minister, who spent almost $200,000 entertaining guests in his first six months in office, hosting 16 functions.
Ian Yates from the Council of the Ageing, or COTA, strongly opposes the cuts because “Newstart is so appallingly low anyway. When you live well below the poverty line on Newstart then $4 per week is a lot of money. It means one less meal,” he told Fairfax Media.
He says over 50s suffer from significant age discrimination so they often find it very difficult to get back into the workforce.
“Many people live on Newstart for years before going on the age pension so of course they have had no capacity to save for retirement, and indeed have usually run down their previous savings because you can’t live on Newstart.”