Northern and western suburbs of Melbourne such as Broadmeadows, Sunshine, Werribee, King’s Park and Roxburgh Park all have more than 10 per cent of their populations surviving on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance. Outside the city, Morwell and Moe, Bendigo, and Orbost are also experiencing high levels of welfare support. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Upper Yarra Valley where of the near 200 residents almost one in five is on support.
In NSW, Fairfield in western Sydney has the highest proportion of people on the welfare payments, with 15.4 per cent. Mullumbimby near Byron Bay is next with 14.2 per cent of the population. In western NSW, 14.1 per cent of people in Walgett/Lightning Ridge and 13.7 per cent of those in Bourke receive the payments.
The western Sydney areas of Fairfield, Liverpool and Bankstown all have more than 10 per cent of their population living on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance. So do tourist destinations Byron Bay, Wyong and The Entrance and regional cities Tamworth, Lismore, Newcastle and the Illawarra region.
The coronavirus supplement was initially $550 a fortnight, effectively doubling the unemployment benefit at a time when hundreds of thousands more people found themselves on the dole queue. It was reduced to $250 a fortnight from September 25. The next step down, to $150 on January 1, is legislated to last until the end of March.
The hit comes at the time when unemployment is forecast to peak, with Treasury saying in the mid-year budget update it would reach 7.5 per cent in the March quarter and only drop to 6.25 per cent by the middle of 2022.
In November, there were 942,100 people unemployed with the jobless rate at 6.8 per cent.
Social services advocates and the government’s political opponents have seized on the temporary increase to the unemployment payment to bolster their arguments its base rate should be increased from the current $40-a-day level. Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has repeatedly said the government will decide what happens to the payments after the end of March once it has a better understanding of what the economic conditions will be like at that time.