Politics

Why The Final JobSeeker Cuts Will Push People Back Into Poverty

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JobSeeker payments are being cut again.

The scheme has been a lifeline for thousands of Australians throughout the pandemic and advocates really want the government to reconsider the new cuts.

So, when are the new JobSeeker changes happening, who are they going to affect, and why are people concerned about them?

What Are The JobSeeker Changes?

From April 1st, people on JobSeeker will only get $40 dollars a day in support.

The new payment rate is actually what the original Newstart Allowance was before it became the JobSeeker system.

It’s been widely recognised for years as not being enough for the people who depend on it, even in non-pandemic times.

When Covid hit, the coronavirus supplement doubled JobSeeker payments, which helped around 155,000 Australians stay out of homelessness.

It was the first time in more than 30 years that people were living on the poverty line. Not above it, but just on it.

Kristin O’Connell: “It was just a desperate struggle to survive. That has been the case now for so long that people who have been on unemployment for a while were just, you know, overwhelmed with relief when they were finally able to start replacing years’ old appliances that no longer worked properly, catch up on debts like their electricity bill that they hadn’t been able to pay.”

The end date of these life-saving supplements has really been looming over people’s heads, especially since the government started reducing the rate at the end of last year.

KO: “The government I think has been treating us a little bit like a frog in a boiling pot, just slowly taking away this money and support and making it harder bit by bit, tightening the wrench for people who are not able to a job.”

Who Is Going To Be Affected By The JobSeeker Cuts?

So, who’s going to be impacted by the new JobSeeker cuts, and what will those impacts be?

Well, most people who received the supplement were those on parenting payments or Newstart, and then it included people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Students were eventually included too after an incredible campaign to extend the extra help to youth allowance.

It really just helped people stay afloat during Covid.

KO: “Before the payment increased, 8 out of 10 people on the JobSeeker payment regularly skipped meals and 9 out of 10 on youth allowance regularly skipped meals, because youth allowance is actually a lower payment.”

People like Kristin O’Connell from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union think that everyone will suffer from the new changes, but especially those who haven’t lived on the payments before the pandemic boost.

The government’s tactic of lowering payments as an incentive to try and get people to find a job hasn’t worked in the past, and it’s highly unlikely to work this time around.

In fact, all it does it force people into poverty, which makes it even harder to find work.

And with JobKeeper also set to expire in the next two months, more and more Australians could find themselves on the lowered JobSeeker.

Why JobMaker Isn’t The Solution

Peak social services have been advocating for the long-term rate of Jobseeker to be lifted to meet the poverty line as a bare minimum. But instead, the government has put the money into the JobMaker scheme.

JobMaker essentially pays for businesses to create more jobs for the unemployed. But only for people under 35 years old, which Kristin told me is not only discriminatory but also ignores the older people who rely on JobSeeker payments.

She described it as another perfect example of the government taking money out of the pockets of the unemployed and funneling it into corporates who don’t need the support.

The Takeaway

The upcoming JobSeeker changes make the future for Australia’s unemployed extremely worrying.

Homelessness and poverty were already a concern before the pandemic, and now the people who were finally able to live somewhat comfortably over the last year, have just been left holding their breath all over again.