Unemployment rate is a farce that obscures poverty crisis
The number of people depending on poverty payments is higher than pre-COVID, despite fall in outdated unemployment measure
CORRECTION: There was a calculation error in the original version of this statement. The change in the proportion of working age people on unemployment payments is 5.9%, nearly double what it was in 2008. The earlier version incorrectly stated that the number had tripled.
The government must stop obfuscating the pain felt by people on the lowest incomes by peddling the unemployment rate as a measure of a healthy labour market. We are in a poverty crisis directly of their making.
The unemployment rate has not been this low since before the global financial crisis in 2008 when it was 4%. But the proportion of working age people who rely on an unemployment payment has nearly doubled – from 3.3% in mid-20081 compared to about 5.9% today.2 Over the same period, unemployment payments have fallen further and further below the poverty line.
With nearly a million people and their kids relying on unemployment payments that are half the Henderson poverty line, poor people have used up all our breathing room.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Kristin O’Connell said:
The rosy picture painted by the government after today’s unemployment figures were published doesn’t reflect reality for the millions of people who are forced to survive on poverty-level Centrelink payments because there aren’t enough jobs.
We are sick of the spin and the gaslighting. People in low paid jobs and people without a job are at breaking point. Housing prices and the rental market are out of control and basic living costs are relentlessly increasing.
The unemployment rate is past it’s use-by date. It’s time to get rid of this archaic measure. It’s become increasingly irrelevant with the dramatic rise of casualisation and underemployment, which has left hundreds of thousands of employed people relying on unemployment payments to survive.
The pandemic was the nail in the coffin for this simplistic employment survey being useful, and we’ve now had a sustained decoupling of the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed and underemployed people who need income support.
Prices for basic necessities, particularly food and fuel are undeniably skyrocketing. The Henderson poverty line is skyrocketing. The length of time people are trapped on JobSeeker is skyrocketing. Low unemployment means nothing to those of us hurting.
It’s time for politicians to wake up to reality – people are in despair and scared for the future. We are stretched beyond belief.
We’re barreling towards disaster unless the government ensures that people who don’t have enough paid work can afford to live. They lifted payments to the Henderson poverty line overnight in 2020 and they can do so again.