Dole queue soars
THE number of West Australians claiming the dole has jumped by more than a third in just three years, with more than 95,000 people now on unemployment benefits.
New figures released by Social Services Minister Christian Porter show the harsh realities of a troubled State, with the WA economy still reeling from a mining slump that has seen unemployment rise to 6.2 per cent in 2016-17 — the highest rate in 15 years.
WA Treasury is forecasting unemployment to be about 6 per cent this financial year.
While 70,973 people were receiving Newstart and Youth Allowance in June 2014, that figure has now swelled to 95,496 — meaning the number of dole recipients has increased by 24,523, or 34 per cent, in just three years.
Alarmingly, figures also show that the proportion of the State’s population on the dole has now risen to 3.7 per cent compared with 2.8 per cent in 2014. This is despite the fact that the rate of population growth in WA slowed to just 0.6 per cent — about 16,000 people — in 2016 and is expected to be just 1 per cent this financial year.
In other States such as NSW and Victoria, the proportion of State population on Newstart and Youth Allowance has actually decreased since 2014. Figures also show that the age group worst affected by WA’s economic slump appears to be the 35-44 age group, with 20,066 receiving the dole.
The figures have prompted the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA and the WA Council of Social Services to appeal to the Labor Government to do more to stimulate jobs. CCI chief economist Rick Newnham said yesterday WA was now “88 per cent of the way down the business investment cliff”.
“Once investment returns to positive territory and new jobs are added, we will see the entire economy start to recover,” he said.
But he warned that any increases in taxes would only hamper economic recovery.
“To stimulate business investment WA must be seen as a stable place to invest,” he said. “Increasing taxes on business, particularly payroll tax, does the opposite, making WA the most expensive State to create new jobs.
“At a time when WA’s economy was just getting back on its feet the WA Government has knocked it back down by increasing taxes to prop up their unsustainable spending.”
Mr Porter said yesterday the unemployment “increase came off a very low base in 2014 — a time when the mining boom was providing jobs and tens of thousands of people were moving to WA for work.”
The new figures coincide with new data showing more West Australians are being forced to turn to government hardship funding to pay their bills, such as power charges.
From January to August this year, the Government paid out more than $13 million to West Australians struggling to pay their power bills.
WACOSS chief executive Louise Giolitto said yesterday the WA Government had to make sure it “set clear targets for traineeships and apprenticeships for the Metronet build”.