Rising prices are leaving many Australians on income support payments with no choice but to skip meals and cut back on heating to make ends meet.
Nearly three-quarters of Australians on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and the Parenting Payment are eating less as cost of living pressures intensify.
An Australian Council of Social Service survey found similar numbers were keeping their heating switched off to keep energy bills down and using their cars less than usual to save on petrol.
Most of the 270 respondents in the private rental market were found to be in rental stress—defined as spending more than 30 percent of income on rent.
ACOSS deputy chief executive officer Edwina MacDonald said the high cost of living was stretching “woefully” low-income support payments very thin.
“Australia’s income support payments are among the lowest in wealthy nations and do not cover the essentials of life such as rent, energy and food, causing serious harm to those who rely on them,” she said.
The federal government committed to a $40 (US$25) a fortnight boost to the payment in the federal budget, and when combined with the 2.2 percent indexation to inflation, job seekers are expected to see their payments grow by $56 a fortnight in September.
Ms. MacDonald said this would amount to a $4-a-day increase that would not cover rising costs for food, rent and clothing.
“We must raise income support payments to at least the pension rate—currently $76 a day—to lift people out of poverty, improve wellbeing and support people to participate in employment and society,” she said.
The survey came as the Reserve Bank is expected to deliver a reprieve by keeping interest rates on hold at 4.1 percent at its board meeting on Tuesday.