The federal government is being pushed to raise Jobseeker to $70 a day. 

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) is using this week’s jobs and skills summit to push for a significant increase to Jobseeker payments.

ACOSS says lifting the rate would help get Australia’s 750,000 long-term unemployed people back into the workforce.

The lobby wants full employment to be “the core goal” to reduce the social harms of joblessness, with entrenched joblessness seen as “one of the biggest roadblocks” to hitting that target.

“With ambition and commitment we can create an economy where people secure the jobs and paid working hours they need, wages and other incomes – including jobseeker payment – are growing again, and no one is left behind,” says Edwina MacDonald, acting chief executive of ACOSS. 

While the jobless rate is down since the start of COVID-19, falling to a 48-year low of 3.4 per cent in July, but the number of people on long-term unemployment benefits remains stubbornly high.

Stats from March this year suggest 760,000 have relied on Jobseeker for at least a year, and 610,000 for more than two years.

“The social harms of high unemployment, which is a major cause of poverty, income inequality, anxiety and depression, and social fragmentation, would be averted” if full employment can be achieved,” the ACOSS submission to the summit says. 

ACOSS argues that the lowest income supports, including the jobseeker payment, should be increased from $46 to $70 a day. 

That would bring the payments up to the same level as the pension plus related supplement, and should also be indexed to wages as well as prices, ACOSS says. 

“To lift people out of poverty and strive for full employment, it is critical that we have adequate income support so that people can cover the basics and search for employment,” Ms MacDonald said.