Revealed: The Minimum Income For a Healthy Life and How the Dole Falls Way Short

Posted by Georgia Kirby on Aug 30, 2017 7:00:47 AM

Not to worry though. Professor Peter Saunders and Megan Bedford, of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, have recently published a new "budget standard" for both low-paid and unemployed Australians. The study was primarily funded by the Australian Research Council, with a quarter of the cost covered by donations from Catholic Social Services Australia, the United Voice union and the Australian Council of Social Service.

Through this new budget standard, the researchers have put together, and costed, the goods and services different sized families at these income levels require for each member - adult or child - to lead a full, healthy life. Therefore it isn't a poverty line and does take into account the current standards of the community. However it is the minimum amount required to satisfy one's basic needs.

"There is no allowance for even the most modest or occasional 'luxuries' and wastage was kept to an absolute bare minimum. Thus the budgets are extremely tight," the researchers say. For instance, a low-income family is assumed to have a car, but it is a second-hand, five-year-old Toyota Corolla, kept for five years. Someone who is unemployed has no car.

As it is healthy standard, the only allowance for alcohol is a couple glasses a week, with no smoking allowance.

Let's see how you would like to live on these budget standards (The figures have been rounded to the nearest $10 for easy understandability.). The low-paid categories assume at least one person working full-time on the national minimum wage.

A single adult would require $600 to spend per week. A childless couple would require $830. Adding a child of 6 rises this to $970. Another child added, aged 10, rises again to $1170. A part time working, sole parent with a child, would require $830 per week.

For this example, consider a couple with two children. Their biggest expense would be rent, $460 a week for a unit in an outer suburb with three-bedrooms. Then weekly expenses would be $200 for food, $140 for transport, $140 for household goods and services, $80 for recreation (swimming lessons; bit of sport for the kids), $60 for education, $40 for personal care, $30 for clothing and footwear and $20 a week for any out-of-pocket healthcare.

The budget standards for unemployed families are much more tighter.

While the low paid were assumed to shop at Woolworths and Kmart, individuals who're unemployed in the focus groups utilised to evaluate the realism of these standards said they couldn't afford these shops. Instead they shopped at Aldi and other discount stores, often chasing specials and collecting vouchers to make things last.

Regardless of frugality, a single unemployed adult still required $430 a week. A childless couple needs $660, which increases to $770 with one child and a higher $940 with a second child. A sole parent who is unemployed with one child needs $680 a week.

It is true that the economies of scale mean a couple only requires 1.5 times as much money as a single. However, additional kids cost more, partially because older kids cost more.

Good news is that a single adult working for minimum wage earns around $60 a week more than is needed to maintain the healthy standard of living, costing $600 per week.A part time working sole parent, with one child, gets wages and welfare benefits of $45 a week more than minimum standard of living costs of $830 per week.

However, there is still bad news. A low paid, childless couple earns around $40 less than the required $830. After taking into accounts family benefits, a low paid couple (one full time and the other doing part time work) with one child is almost $10 off their $970 minimum standard. A couple with two children are often short $90 from the $1170 they need weekly.

On of the major flaws on our nation's conscience is the long running attempt by our government to starve the unemployed individuals until they find a (typically non existing) job.

This study found that many welfare benefits designed for the unemployed, including the dole, fall close to $100 a week short of the minimum standards for healthy living for the single unemployed. Not only this, but a childless couple on the dole are about $110 a week and a couple with two children receive $130 less a week. However, we are likely to be far more generous to an unemployed couple with one child, who're short by on $60 per week, and also an unemployed single parent with one child, who go with only $50 less a week.

We could ask the politicians to be more generous, if only we weren't so concerned with maintaining our own standard of living.

Topics: Firm News


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