Could you live on $39 per day?

We call on the government to raise the single rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments.

Over 800,000 people, including parents, carers, people with disability, other people locked out of paid work and students are struggling daily to afford basic essentials like a roof over their head and food on their table.

People are having to make tough choices between eating a meal and paying a bill, buying shoes for their children and maintaining their health.

It is nearly impossible to look for paid work if you are homeless and hungry.

Newstart has not increased in real terms in 24 years, but the cost of essentials has drastically increased.

Already there are 3 million people living in poverty in Australia, including over 730,000 children.

It is time for government to Raise the Rate.

Actions you can take to Raise the Rate

The single rate of Newstart is $278 per week, which is $175 per week below the pension.

Newstart has not increased in 24 years (in real terms).

647,000 people receive the single rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance (Other).

More than half (55%) of the people on Newstart Allowance live below the poverty line.

There is only 1 job available for every 8 people looking for paid work or more hours. (ABS 2018). 

That is why 70% of people receiving Newstart have been unemployed for 12 months or more.


“If Newstart was increased? Rent = $320. Therefore, $50 more = pay for food and medications. $100 more could keep the electricity on. No winter heating or car or buying shoes but I would be able to keep a roof over my head and cook and wash.”

Single people on Newstart receive an extra $67 per week if they rent privately. However, there are just 28 private rentals Australia-wide affordable for a single unemployed person (Anglicare 2017).

Buying the basics like housing, food, transport, health, energy, and clothing costs a single person a minimum of $433 per week (UNSW 2017).

Over 3 million people live in poverty in Australia, of whom 731,000 are children. 40% of those children are in single parent families (ACOSS 2016).

Spending on the Age Pension is the largest area of social security expenditure (40%) while Newstart and related payments is just 7%.

“My mum on Newstart should have enough to survive, not just be alive.”

Supporters of Raise the Rate

Benjamin Law, journalist, 2018

“As a participant on SBS’s “Filthy Rich and Homeless”, I was given what would’ve been leftover from Newstart payments after paying rent for a boarding house.
What I was left with was barely enough to afford basic groceries. Men in my boarding house forfeited toilet paper for food. In Australia in 2018, this is unacceptable.
Raise the rate. “

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council of Australia, 2017

“We need a ‘robust and targeted welfare safety net that ensures displaced workers don’t fall into poverty while finding their feet. This could include increasing the inadequate Newstart allowance.” 

Dr Ken Henry, ­National Australia Bank, 2018 

“There remain real questions about the adequacy of the unemployment benefit.” 

Professor Peter Saunders, UNSW, 2017

“While the minimum wage may be adequate for some low-paid workers, this is clearly not the case for Newstart Allowance, which is woefully inadequate. An increase well in excess of $50 per week is urgently needed.” 

Chris Richardson, Deloitte Access Economics, 2018

“What Australia has failed to do with unemployment benefits for virtually a quarter of a century now is verging on a national embarrassment.” 

Heather Ridout AO, Australian Super, 2018

“There are single people out there on their own who don’t get enough support from government and they are living in poverty.” 

Brendan Rynne, KPMG Chief Economist, 2016

“The low level of Newstart is actually forming a barrier to employment, as it is insufficient to allow unemployed people to actively conduct job search.” 

John Hewson AM, 2017

“Genuine reform must include a willingness to increase the base Newstart and pension benefits to at least an accepted poverty line.” 

John Howard OM, AC, former PM, 2018

“I was in favour of freezing [Newstart] but I think the freeze has probably gone on too long.”

Sally McManus, ACTU, 2018

“I think that it is much better to give money to Newstart, to make sure that people aren’t falling off a cliff if they fall out of employment, than give it to big business through corporate tax cuts.” 


Raising the rate will:

  • lift thousands of people on the lowest income support payments out of poverty
  • improve people’s prospects of finding decent paid work
  • reduce the huge gap between allowance payments and pensions
  • improve social and economic participation
  • strengthen local communities