You may have thought that the government was beginning to withdraw any economic stimulus provided to Australians. However, a new stimulus will be presented soon. This time, not a stimulus that provides extra money, but one that places thousands of Australians in poverty.
The JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments provided by the government undoubtedly saved lives. It ensured that even if individuals lost their job, they would still be able to gain access to funds to cover their basic needs. However, as of the start of this month, the money provided by both support payments was significantly reduced, and the criteria to be eligible for the payments was also made stricter.
The problem with these stimulus packages from the very start is that they were unable to be personalised. They were broad and generic, meaning that some people gained enormous benefits from them, while others continued to lose previous income. Now, the payments have been reduced, and millions of people still don’t have a secure form of income.
I am unfortunately one of the millions of people to have lost their job during this pandemic. I’ve obviously lost income, but as I don’t have many expenses, it will not significantly impact my short-term future. However, there are people similar to me who have lost their job but rely on their income to pay bills, rent and other expenses. This is why it is predicted that the poverty rate will increase in over two-thirds of Australia in October compared with before the pandemic.
In Sydney, poverty rates in Fairfield are expected to rise 10.7% and areas such as Bankstown, Auburn and Liverpool are also likely to record an increase in their poverty rates of up to 9.6%. Even in more wealthy areas, the poverty rate is expected to rise by around 3%.
The government was praised for a reduction in poverty rates after the introduction of the JobSeeker and JobKeeper support payments with the rate falling from 14.1% to 11.1%. However, the reduced levels of those payments are now forecast to lift the national poverty rate up to 15.1%, the highest figure recorded in the last few decades. The government opted for a short-term success story but failed to prepare for the long-term burden that reducing these payments would have on Australians.
My fear is that the poverty rate will continue to increase. It is an incredibly hard time to find work, which could result in more individuals and families struggling to provide for their basic needs.
The government has to acknowledge the impact of reducing support payments and act quickly to support Australians who have lost employment during the pandemic.
Creating jobs is a crucial step in achieving this goal. Job creation must be a high priority to enable skilled and unskilled individuals to enter the workforce again.
Another option is to create a special payment or supplement for individuals who have lost their job during the pandemic and have to support their family. This is of extreme importance as many children will be negatively impacted if their parents can no longer afford to provide food, education or leisure activities. These children should not be paying for the pandemic, and any support the government can provide to families must be considered and acted upon.
Usually, a stimulus is exciting. But the reduction of payments by the government is resulting in an unprecedented increase in poverty, and that is a terrifying thought for thousands of Australians. The government must support those who have suffered during this pandemic and lift them back through increasing support in areas of jobs, education and healthcare. As lifting them up physically would clearly violate social distancing.