The Australian Council of Social Service, which obtained the figure from Centrelink data, says the jump reflects both the weak labour market and decisions of the Gillard government to force Australians who would once have been on the disability support payment and single parenting allowance on to Newstart.
In August 538,900 Newstart recipients were so-called long-term unemployed, up from 498,290 in August 2014. Three years ago in August 2012 only 352,850 Newstart recipients had been out of work for more than a year.
“There’s been a dramatic change in the proportion of people applying for the disability payment who have been refused and pushed on to Newstart,” ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.
“Even though they are accessed as capable of work and often are capable, because they have a disability they are unlikely to get it. The main thing that has changed for them is much lower payment rate.”
Mothers have also been caught up in new rules introduced by the Gillard government, which forced single parents on to Newstart when their youngest child turned eight.
“This one move alone probably pushed 100,000 single parents onto Newstart,” Ms Goldie said.
“While the idea of working after your child turns eight is a good one, the Newstart rate is so low that many parents who would have studied to get jobs find themselves working in dead-end jobs or looking for work which doesn’t materialise,” she said.
The council wants the Turnbull ministry to abandon the Abbott government’s push to make young job seekers wait an extra four weeks before getting access to Newstart.
Originally set at six months, the wait was among the raft of measures in the Coalition’s first budget that failed to make it through the Senate. The Coalition reintroduced the bill last week.
“The current unemployment rate is a structural problem to do with a slowing economy in transition,” Ms Goldie said. “This is not the time to punish people who find themselves unable to secure paid work.”
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