As the Fair Pay Commission handed down its decision on minimum pay, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) responded to the modest increases for low income earners.
ACOSS Executive Director Andrew Johnson said: “The Fair Pay Commission’s modest increase in the minimum wage will put struggling families at risk of falling behind. The increase is less than the Government predicted inflation for 2007-08 which is 2.5%.”
“Further, people reliant on minimum wages often have insecure unskilled work and cycle between jobs and social security payments. To give low income Australians a fair go, the Federal Government needs to create more pathways out of low paid work and welfare.”
ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds said: “Minimum wages are one part of the solution to poverty in Australia – we also need to provide more unemployed people with skills and support to get into work. Jobless Australians want to work but many have only a Year 10 education and face barriers to work such as discrimination, lack of skills, lack of child care or transport to work.”
“To assist the two million Australians living in poverty, ACOSS hopes the Federal Government will move towards a more strategic approach to helping those left behind despite Australia’s economic growth. The strategic approach should link up work, education, services, housing and other essentials to give all Australians a fair go. Pay rates are an important part of that approach.”
The Fair Pay Commission handed down a pay increase of just over $10 a week in all pay scales up to $700 coming into effect from October, which is an increase of just over 2%, and $5.30 a week in all pay scales above $700 a week. CPI is predicted to be 2.5% for 2007-08.
ACOSS’s submission to the Fair Pay Commission stated:
- Minimum wages should be based on benchmarks for an adequate living standard well above poverty.
- Minimum wages were an important protection against poverty but a more comprehensive approach was needed to help the 2 million Australians living in poverty.
- There is no evidence that recent increases in minimum wages adversely affected growth in employment and in fact low income Australians needed minimum wage increases to keep pace with other Australians.
- More people in rural and regional areas are on low wages and policies are needed to address the causes of higher unemployment in these areas.
- People who were formerly jobless who obtain a low paid or casual job have about an equal chance of moving up in the next year to a higher paying or permanent job, or falling back into joblessness.
- Over the long term minimum wages have failed to keep up with rises in living standards – taking inflation into account the minimum wage is worth no more today that it was in 1986.