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Discussion paper

Opportunity lost: half a million Australians in poverty without the coronavirus supplement

Low socioeconomic status Welfare recipients Welfare reform Poverty Unemployment Australia

In March 2020, the Australian government lifted almost half a million Australians (470,000) out of poverty, including 75,000 children, by introducing the coronavirus supplement worth $550 per fortnight.

All these gains were lost as the government incrementally cut the coronavirus supplement through 2020. Between March and December 2020, an additional 900,000 Australians fell into poverty, including 200,000 children.

The government plans one last cut, scrapping the remaining coronavirus supplement (worth $150 per fortnight) at the end of March 2021 and replacing it with an increase in the base rate of $50 per fortnight. This represents a net cut of $100 per fortnight from the current rate, or a net cut of $500 from the original coronavirus supplement. This final cut will put an additional 155,000 Australians into poverty, including 18,000 children.

Over the course of a year, from the introduction of the coronavirus supplement at the end of March 2020 to its removal at the end of March 2021, over one million Australians (1,055,000) will enter poverty, including almost 220,000 children. This represents a lost opportunity to make significant improvements to the rates of poverty in Australia, including the number of children in poverty.

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