14 May 2020
The April employment figures out today demonstrate the importance of a decent, secure safety net for people without paid employment, says the Australian Council of Social Service.
“We’ve already seen the official unemployment rate rise to 6.2% in April and we know this would have been worse had the JobKeeper payment not been announced,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“Startlingly, 20% of people previously employed (2.7 million) became unemployed or had their hours reduced between March and April.
“For people without a job, or those who need more hours, there is currently very little opportunity to find paid work. Not only is this financially distressing, the great uncertainty that people are going through deeply affects mental health.
“People need security for the future and business needs confidence in order to be able to rebuild. That’s why it’s so important that the Government extends the new JobSeeker Payment until we have an income support system in place that protects people from living below the poverty line.
“Under the compliance system before COVID19, people had to search for 20 jobs a month, participate in Work for the Dole and attend regular appointments with employment service providers under pain of losing their next payment. Payments were automatically suspended on the same day if someone didn’t attend a provider appointment regardless of the reason, and people had to contact their provider to get payments reinstated. In many cases, people weren’t even aware of the appointment. “This system was harsh, and caused a great deal of anxiety for people.
This compliance system has been suspended since the lockdowns commenced.
“Given the high level of anxiety among people who lack paid employment and have to rely on Jobseeker Payments, we welcome Employment Minister Cash’s announcement today that the suspension of activity requirements for Jobseeker Payment will continue at least until June 1, and that the Government will take account the scope of lockdowns and state of the labour market before reinstating it.
“We call on the Government not to reinstate the harsh system that was in place before this crisis, and to work with employment service providers and representatives of people affected to redesign the system so that people can prepare and search for jobs, while feeding and housing themselves, with the certainty that their payments won’t suddenly be suspended,” Dr Goldie said.