A government committee has called for a $17 per day increase in JobSeeker payments.

In its latest report, the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee (EIAC) has issued a strong recommendation to the Australian government to increase the JobSeeker payment as a critical “first priority”. 

This advice comes amidst heightened concerns regarding economic disparities and the adequacy of unemployment benefits in the country.

Established in 2022 following a legislative agreement with Independent Senator David Pocock, the EIAC, chaired by former Labor minister Jenny Macklin, brings together a diverse group of stakeholders including academics, business leaders, union representatives, and community sector advocates. Their collective expertise is used to analyse Australia's social welfare strategies ahead of each federal budget.

Currently, a single JobSeeker recipient with no dependent children receives just over $54 per day. 

The committee’s proposal aims to elevate this amount to nearly $72 per day, aligning it to 90 per cent of the age pension rate. 

This adjustment would significantly reduce the disparity between unemployment benefits and pensions, which has been a growing issue over recent years.

As of 2019, Australia ranked the lowest in the OECD for short-term unemployment benefits. 

Should the government adopt the EIAC's recommendation, Australia would surpass countries like New Zealand, the UK, and the US in these rankings.

The committee analysed the inflationary impact of their proposed increase in JobSeeker payments, and found that despite prevailing inflation concerns nationally, the likely effect would be “small to negligible”. 

The EIAC has estimated that the annual cost of this recommendation would be around $4.6 billion.

In the previous federal budget, a base rate increase of $40 per fortnight was implemented. The committee says that while this adjustment offered some relief, it is still insufficient, with many recipients still struggling to meet basic living standards.

A major aspect of the EIAC's report is a call to reform the indexation process used for adjusting unemployment benefits. 

The current method has been criticised for lacking consistency and not adequately reflecting cost of living changes. 

The committee suggests aligning indexation more closely with wage growth or inflation metrics to ensure that benefits do not lag behind living costs.

The response from the federal government has been cautious. 

Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth say they recognise the importance of the committee's recommendations in informing upcoming budget discussions. 

But neither have endorsed the report, citing the need to evaluate the proposal against other fiscal priorities and challenges.

Public advocacy groups, including the Australian Council of Social Services, have welcomed the report, emphasising the urgent need for increased support to ensure that individuals on JobSeeker can afford basic necessities and live with dignity.