Chorus of calls for dole increase

UNIONS, social service groups and at least one major business group are now calling for the dole to be increased by at least $50 a week, with the Australian Council of Trade Unions joining the push on Monday.

The growing chorus of calls to raise the allowance has come about through a parliamentary inquiry into government support for people trying to find work.

Job assistance allowances are among many issues the inquiry is considering, including the possibility of a full reform of the nation's welfare system.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the Newstart allowance had not increases in real terms since the early 1990s and was not enough for people to live on, let alone find a job.

"The rate now is so low it is just 18% of average wages in Australia and widely regarded among both the welfare and business communities as a major contributor to entrenching people into long-term poverty, with insecure work playing a large role," she said.

"Newstart is a bedrock component of Australia's social protection system, but it is letting the most vulnerable members of our community down."

A poll of government employees at the Department of Human Services by the Commonwealth Public Sector Union recently showed almost two thirds of those workers believed the current rate was inadequate, while 75% of respondents said the low payment was keeping people dependent on welfare.

"Centrelink workers told us that many people in insecure jobs drop in and out of the payment system when their hours dry up or they suddenly lose their casual, contract or labour hire jobs," Ms Kearney said.

"We know that people working insecure jobs find it hard to get a mortgage or plan their lives, but now this new research confirms the devastation it is wreaking on the most vulnerable members of our community.

"The income support system needs to be designed for the labour market we have today, not the one we had decades ago."

The inquiry continues and will report its findings to parliament in November.