JobSeeker to rise by $25 a week from April

Today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially confirmed that fortnightly JobSeeker payments will rise by $50 from 1 April. Overall, this still amounts to a decrease to the current rate due to the cessation of the Coronavirus supplement

This will bring the total fortnightly payment to a maximum of $615.70 or around $44 a day for a single person.

From April last year, those receiving income support had their standard payments increased by the Coronavirus supplement. This started out as an additional $550 per-fortnight sent to recipients bank accounts and periodically decreased to $150.

Currently, unemployed individuals and those eligible for other government benefits receive a maximum $715.70 fortnightly payment.

It’ll remain at this level until the supplement is phased out after March 31, when the newly increased standard rate is introduced.

Before COVID-19 hit Australia’s economy, the JobSeeker rate for a single person had been $565 a fortnight. 

Calls for a higher JobSeeker rate to cover necessities

Early this month, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) restated its call for the daily JobSeeker rate to be raised to $65, which it says is the minimum amount needed to cover basic living costs in Australia.

“We cannot leave people to make impossible choices between food, rent, bills, basic toiletries and medications,” ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said in the statement.

“Everyone should be able to cover the basics of their life, including people with disability and single parents who are on the JobSeeker Payment. We must also ensure people can meet the costs of job search, including transport, communications and clothing.”

The ACOSS recommended rate would amount to a fortnightly support payment of $910 – this leaves the government’s proposal $295 short of their expectations.

Looking at the minimum wage in Australia ($19.84 per-hour) can help put both these figures in context.

When applied to a standard 38-hour work week, the weekly minimum wage amounts to $753.80, or a fortnightly $1,507.60 pay packet.

What you need to do to get the new JobSeeker rate

If you’re already receiving the relevant income support, you don’t need to take any practical action to get the new standard rate – this will happen automatically.

Under the revised scheme, recipients will be able to earn more before payments are affected. You can now earn up to $450 a fortnight (a $150 increase) before you’ll see a dip in payments, which is good news for casual or part-time workers trying to balance work availability and profitability.

However, the number of monthly job searches recipients have to conduct each month will increase under the new rules from eight to 15. This will rise again to 20 applications a month starting in July. This condition was temporarily paused at the height of COVID-19. 

Additionally, after six months of receiving welfare payments, employment minister Michaelia Cash said people will be required to go into an “intensive training stage." 

"In other words, we're going to give them the best chance they can to do a short course to enhance their skills or to do some work experience," she said.

For more guidance managing your finances, check out these free financial counselling services and this crisis budgeting guide.