Shocking number of Aussies now on welfare
Half of all working-age Australians are now reliant on welfare to survive as COVID-19 restrictions drag the economy closer to a recession.
The stunning figure is revealed in new data released by Treasury that confirms there are now 5 million Australians on the $1500-a-fortnight JobKeeper wage subsidy.
The first of the payments were transferred to workers this week.
For millions of workers, the modest JobKeeper payment is all they can rely on to survive while they remain stood down from hospitality jobs.
But they are arguably the lucky ones.
Almost a million workers are now unemployed and reliant on the JobSeeker payment, which was increased in late April to $550-a-week with the addition of the Coronavirus Supplement. Unemployment is forecast to double to 10 per cent.
When combined, the 6 million workers now relying on Jobseeker and JobKeeper payments represent exactly half of the 12 million working-age Australians across the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes it's now the most pressing challenge facing national leaders.
"Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been protected, in terms of their health, in recent weeks and months. Thousands of Australian lives have been saved,'' he said.
"But we now need to get a million Australians back to work. That is the curve we need to address.
"That cost will continue so long as we have Australians in a position where they are unable to open their businesses and able to go back to the offices, children unable to go back to school, and the many restrictions in place."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said JobKeeper is designed to provide a bridge to that recovery.
"The $1500 fortnightly JobKeeper Payment is providing an economic lifeline to millions of Australians,'' he said.
"This payment is giving working Australians their best chance of keeping their job and keeping them connected to their employers so the business can bounce back in the recovery phase."
But tough decisions await the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when the JobKeeper payments run out and the 'dole' or JobSeeker payments reverts to the normal rate when the Coronavirus Supplement ends.
The JobSeeker payment was effectively doubled to $550-a-week under COVID-19 measures but the increase from the Coronavirus Supplement will end in September.
Unemployment is also set to spike again when the JobKeeper payment runs out later this year.
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said it was "unrealistic" to return the JobSeeker payment to pre-COVID levels.
"We would like to see it increased. No doubt the Government is considering that at the moment," he said.
"I think it would be unrealistic to expect people could go back to a payment that is half of what it is now."
According to the latest figures, 728,640 organisations have now enrolled in JobKeeper and the payments will start rolling this week.
Sole traders represent 40 per cent of all applicants, while 39 per cent are companies.
Victoria and NSW are the biggest beneficiaries of JobKeeper with 252,207 workers in NSW, and 197,987 in Victoria.
By comparison, there are 141,972 workers on JobKeeper in Queensland and just 67,680 in Western Australia and 43,465 in South Australia. There are 12,332 workers in on JobKeeper in Tasmania and 8976 in the ACT.
"The Government will continue to do what it takes to ensure that Australia bounces back stronger,'' Mr Frydenberg said.
Samantha Maiden is news.com.au's national political editor | @samanthamaiden
Originally published as Shocking number of Aussies now on welfare