Some unemployed paid above minimum wage

Mark Riley

Welfare groups are campaigning for the dole to be lifted by fifty dollars a week, claiming it's impossible to get by on.

However, figures obtained by 7News show thousands of unemployed families are being paid benefits well above the minimum wage.

Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Services says it’s time to act.

"Business groups agree with us, the OECD agrees with us, tax experts agree with us,” Goldie says.

But departmental advice reveals some are doing it tougher than others.

The minimum wage for workers is $1239 a fortnight, a single unemployed person renting receives half that, just $618.

But if they have a partner and two school-age children their Newstart allowance, family tax benefits, rent, school and carbon tax payments total fifteen hundred and forty dollars a fortnight, $300 above the minimum wage.

If the weekly rate goes up $50, singles would remain $520 below.

A Senate committee is chewing over whether to increase Newstart and while politicians all agree living on benefits is hard, they have to ask whether raising them removes the incentive to work.

"It's a terrible conundrum for any government, no one can ever get that balance right between carrot and stick."

Minimum wage earners get welfare payments too, but modelling by 7News shows if Newstart does rise the difference between a minimum wage family and a jobless family will be just $48 a week.

The Government says it's concentrating on getting people into higher paid jobs, not increasing allowances.

"The government has no plans to change those arrangements,” Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese says.