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Comparison of poverty lines with pension and Newstart (now JobSeeker) payments for singles and couples without children (in $2017-18 per annum)

PovertyHeadline charts

Social security policies clearly have an impact on poverty, for better or for worse. Because most major income support payments are below the poverty line, in order to escape poverty people need to supplement or replace them with private income from other sources.

This graph compares trends in maximum pension and Newstart Allowance rates and poverty lines from 1999-00 to 2017-2018.

It shows that while Newstart Allowance for singles was consistently well below the poverty line, it was above the line for couples up until 2004. This reflects an historical legacy: unlike payments for singles, unemployment payments for couples were tied to the pension rate until 1998.

In contrast, pension rates for both singles and couples have closely tracked poverty lines. One reason for this is that pensions are indexed in line with both movements in prices and wages (whichever is larger).

The impact of the $32pw increase in the single pension rate in 2009 is clearly visible, lifting that payment close to the poverty line in 2010. It rose above the poverty line in 2014, then fell back towards it in 2018.

The couple pension rate was above the poverty line up to 2006, fell below it from 2006 to 2012, then rose slightly above it up to 2018.

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