At least three million Australians live in poverty, and welfare payments have stagnated for the past 25 years. Currently a single person on Newstart receives a maximum of $39.70 a day. This is the equivalent of having to survive on a wage of less than $15,000 a year.
The government claims these payments are only needed for short periods. Anyone who has tried to survive for a period of unemployment knows that this is not good enough – our expenses don’t magically go down when we lose our jobs.
The Australian Council of Social Service and Jobs Australia published a report called ‘Faces of Unemployment’ last year. It showed that 15% of Newstart recipients have been on the payment for more than 5 years.
This system is incapable of providing enough jobs to match the number of jobless, and when it does they are often inadequate. Out of the long-term unemployed who do manage to find a job via the Jobactive program, the majority are hired in part-time or casual positions.
A number of NGOs are calling for a $75 a week increase to the dole. Even right-wing economists and politicians who were previously against increases are now in favour. A $75 a week increase would only cost $3 billion. This is much less than the cost of the tax cuts that were readily proposed in the last budget, which were overwhelmingly targeted at higher income earners.
Such an increase would be welcome, but would not be nearly enough to lift people out of poverty. Socialists demand an immediate increase of $250 per week for single adults, and for future increases to be linked to inflation or changes in the average wage, whichever is higher.
There is plenty of wealth in society to provide for this, as well as to fund services that would both create more jobs and benefit everyone – public housing, education, green energy, healthcare and more.
Inequality and poverty cannot be simply done away with under capitalism. A socialist approach is required.
By Kai Perry