This year the government finally recognised, thanks to a health crisis, that the money it gives the unemployed isn’t enough to live on and increased their benefits. You would think I’d be grateful, but in the uncertainty of the continued rollbacks to JobSeeker payments since then, I am anything but.
It might be easy to consider me churlish or even entitled. I was after all, provided with funds I otherwise wouldn’t have. But for as long as I can remember the raises to unemployment benefits have lagged behind the raises that other government payments get, such as the pension, despite a jobseeker needing more money to live, having more expenses, and having to meet the mutual obligations required of the payment. So, forgive my lack of enthusiasm.
I’ve been unemployed on and off for the past decade. I’ve had to watch as the cost of living for the unemployed has again and again outpaced meagre increases to their benefits. I’ve watched as two-minute noodles became the expensive food option, as Weet-Bix became a luxury item, as the simple act of regular hair washing became a financial burden.
But this year was the worst of all. Because with the coronavirus supplement I got to see what life could be like if I didn’t have to worry every day about what I should eat, or if I would even eat at all. I got to see what life could be like if I could buy regular hygiene products, ones that actually look after my body rather than just pretend.