Unemployment Benefit, 1945 to 1991, Job Search Allowance, 1988 to 1991

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Milestones

Details

1945
July

Unemployment Benefit introduced

Unemployment Benefit (UB) paid to those who were out of work, were capable and willing to undertake suitable work and had taken reasonable steps to obtain work.

Direct participation in a strike disqualified a person from receiving UB and voluntary unemployment could result in postponement or cancellation of UB. Payment of benefit could also be made conditional on beneficiary undertaking training, undergoing a medical examination, receiving treatment or doing work as required.

Residence in Australia of 12 months immediately prior to application for UB required. Waiting period of seven days from claim before payment of UB commenced.

Income test, but not an assets test, applied. Income above certain limits reduced benefit on a pound-for-pound basis. Income of a beneficiary's spouse taken into consideration as was any unearned income of dependent children.

Additional benefit of £1 per week payable for a dependent spouse. The first child also qualified for an additional benefit of five shillings per week.

1947
July

Spouse’s pension income partially exempted and income of dependent children totally exempted from income test.

Provision made for payment of a partial additional benefit for a partially dependent wife.

Additional benefit payable for a housekeeper where a beneficiary had dependent children under 16 years of age and received no benefit for a wife.

Where a beneficiary, living apart from his spouse, was paying spousal maintenance, additional benefit not to exceed amount of such maintenance.

Wives permanently living apart from their husbands eligible for UB.

Residency requirements waived where claimants satisfied Director-General of Social Services (Director-General) they intended to reside permanently in Australia.

1950
November

War pensions no longer treated as income under income test.

1960
February

Restrictions on eligibility of Aboriginal people for UB removed.

1966
September

UB payable to qualified ex-servicemen immediately upon termination of Repatriation Sustenance Allowance from Repatriation Department.

1969
September

Adult UB rates payable to unmarried minors with no parents living in Australia

1973
March

UB rate linked to pension

UB became payable at same rate as pensions. A standard rate for unmarried beneficiaries and a married rate for married beneficiaries and their spouses introduced. Lower rate of benefits for unmarried juniors abolished.

Pension income of a spouse fully exempted under income test.

1974
November

Payment of an additional benefit for a de facto wife of an unemployment or sickness beneficiary could be made where relationship had existed for at least three years.

1975
October

Junior rate of benefit for people aged under 18 years re‑introduced. Requirement that a de facto relationship exist for three years before married rate payable eliminated. Benefits paid weekly in advance instead of weekly in arrears as had been the practice since 1945.

1976
March

Definition of 'suitable work' modified:

  • single people over the age of 18 could be expected to change their locality to find a job
  • work test could be failed by a person on grounds of unacceptable dress or appearance and
  • skilled workers who had not found an appropriate job within six weeks would be required to accept any unskilled job even if that involved a reduction in wages or status.

Those who became unemployed voluntarily had to wait six weeks before eligible for benefit.

School leavers ineligible for UB until commencement of new school year.

Fortnightly income statements to be lodged in person with Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).

1976
May

Subject to a means test, UB payable to primary producers.

1976
July

UB taxable.

1976
November

UB increases, except for those who were unmarried and aged under 18 years, indexed every six months, the same as for pensions. Benefits payable fortnightly instead of weekly.

1977
November

New claims for UB paid two weeks in arrears.

New administrative guidelines for proof of identification for UB.

Legislation amended to preclude payment of benefit to school-leavers for six weeks after they ceased full‑time secondary education.

Alterations made regarding the seven-day waiting period for UB. At the Director-Genera’s discretion, waiting period could begin from date of applicant's unemployment or from seven days prior to application, whichever was the later.

UB recipients required to notify Department of Social Security (DSS) immediately upon starting work. Previously DSS had to be notified within seven days of receiving income, not when commencing employment.

1978
November

Automatic indexation of UB removed for beneficiaries without dependants. Indexation of other UB rates changed to an annual adjustment. (The only annual consumer price index (CPI) adjustment occurred in November 1979.)

1979
October

Tightening of the work test

Beneficiaries expected to accept casual, short-term temporary or part-time work provided it paid the appropriate award or going rate.

UB recipients to be interviewed at least once every three months.

Payment of UB not made to a person whose unemployment was due to their involvement in industrial action or the involvement of a union of which they were a member. The spouse of such a person could qualify for benefit at the single rate plus additional benefits for children. This new provision applied only while industrial action was taking place.

Further tightening of procedures for establishing identity of UB applicants.

A beneficiary who refused a job where travelling expenses to and from job was less than ten per cent of wages paid considered to have failed work test. Previously maximum was five per cent.

Those who refused an offer of suitable work, or who had become voluntarily unemployed without good reason, had benefits postponed for a minimum of six weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks. Previously postponement period had been at Director-General's discretion.

1980
May

Twice-yearly automatic indexation of those benefits still subject to indexation reintroduced.

1980
September

Pay and allowances of Defence Force Reserve members exempted from income test.

1980
November

Income test liberalised

Income test liberalised. Income above $6 per week to $50 per week reduced UB by 50 cents in the dollar ($3 to $40 for those who were single and aged 16 or 17 years). Only income above $50 per week reduced benefit by $1 for each $1 of income.

1982
June

Waiting period for UB modified. If a person registered as unemployed with the CES and made a claim for UB within 14 days of that registration, date of registration taken to be date on which claim made.

1982
August

Rent subsidies provided by a government or a government housing authority exempted from income test.

1982
November

Income tests for all unemployment and sickness benefits (SB) standardised. Benefits reduced by 50 cents for each $1 of income above a 'free area' of $10 per week. Benefits reduced by $1 per week for each $1 of income above $60 a week.

1984
March

Income test 'free area' increased to $20 per week and benefit reduced by $1 for each $1 of income above $70 a week.

1984
May

Single UB beneficiaries with children eligible for Mother's/Guardian's Allowance (MGA).

Automatic indexation reintroduced for UB recipients aged 18 years or more without dependants.

All UB recipients eligible for Remote Area Allowance (RAA).

1984
July

Income tax rebates introduced for beneficiaries.

1984
November

Benefits increased despite a fall in CPI.

1985
November

New rates structure

New rates structure for single people on UB. ‘Junior’ rate for those aged 16 and 17 years set at $50.00 per week; ‘Intermediate’ rate for those aged 18 to 20 years set at $88.20 per week. These benefits not subject to indexation. ‘Adult’ rate for those aged 21 years and over set at $91.45 per week and subject to indexation.

Waiting period removed for those transferring from other income support payments to UB.

1986
May

Rent Assistance payable

Rent Assistance (RA) payable to UB and Special Benefit (SpB) recipients on benefits for over six months, excluding those aged 18 to 24 years living with parents or guardians.

Income test free area increased to $30 per week.

1986
July

Young Homeless Allowance (YHA) introduced. Paid in addition to UB, SB or SpB to homeless young people aged under 18 years without dependants. Young people considered homeless if they:

  • had no parental home
  • were not allowed by the parent(s) to live at home or
  • could not, because of circumstances such as domestic violence, sexual abuse or comparable exceptional circumstances, be expected to live with their parents and
  • were not receiving continuous support of any kind from either parent
  • were not receiving income support from another government body and
  • had been away from home for at least six continuous weeks.

YHA set at a rate bringing combined payment up to level of AUSTUDY payable to independent students aged 16 and 17 years.

YHA also paid as a supplement to homeless AUSTUDY recipients of same age.

1986
September

Regional UB review teams established to conduct risk-based entitlement reviews and verify efforts by beneficiaries to find work.

1986
November

Indexation of benefits deferred for six weeks. Increases now paid December and June (previously November and May).

UB recipients required to lodge income statements personally. Registration with the CES compulsory.

UB recipients over 55 years of age in receipt of benefits for more than one year required to lodge income statements every 12 weeks instead of fortnightly.

1987
March

Those in receipt of UB for over two years to be interviewed by DSS and CES to verify entitlements, ensure that rights and obligations were understood and to provide information about community, employment and training services.

1987
July

Waiting period for voluntary job leavers, those dismissed for misconduct and those who failed the work test standardised and made cumulative. Waiting period increased by two weeks for each occurrence (up to 12 weeks for six occurrences over a three-year period).

RA no longer income tested separately.

Waiting period for UB calculated from date of registration with CES rather than date unemployment commenced.

A work intention questionnaire introduced to check on adequacy of job search activities of UB recipients.

1987
September

Waiting period for education leavers under 21 years of age, without dependants, increased from 6 to 13 weeks.

UB recipients aged 18 to 20 years reviewed after 12 months on benefit. An activity test was substituted for the work test after one year on benefit.

UB applicants required to provide a certificate from previous employer stating date of, and reason for, their job loss.

1987
December

Assets test introduced

Assets test applied to benefits for those aged 25 years and over. Those with assets above pension assets test free area no longer eligible for benefit.

1988
January

Job Search Allowance for those under 18 years

Job Search Allowance (JSA) replaced UB for those aged 16 and 17 years. JSA recipients subject to the UB work test and required to pass an activity test after six months on JSA. Work test involved counselling by CES and offer of suitable training or work. JSA recipients required to have payment continuation forms endorsed fortnightly by CES.

JSA rate $50 per week subject to a parental income test. Payment reduced from $50 per week to a minimum of $25 per week if parental income above $16 000 per annum. Income limit increased by $1200 for first dependent child other than JSA recipient and $2500 for each additional dependent child. Certain JSA recipients exempt from parental income test, mainly those who were married, had children or were not supported by their parents. Normal income test also applied.

Indexation of JSA and UB for those aged 18 to 20 years deferred until January 1989.

For AUSTUDY recipients receiving UB between 1 January and the first AUSTUDY payment for a year, amount paid as UB recovered from first AUSTUDY payment.

1988
February

UB benefit for recipients living apart from their spouse indefinitely due to illness payable at single rate.

Work effort certificate introduced to be used selectively in conjunction with work intention certificate. UB recipients whose job search efforts were in doubt required to obtain signatures of employers approached about work.

1988
June

Separate maintenance income test introduced. Benefit reduced by 50 cents for each dollar of maintenance income above $15 per week for one child plus $5 for each subsequent child.

1989
January

Mobile benefits delivery teams established to provide services to remote areas.

1989
February

Newstart Program established

Newstart Program to improve employment prospects of long-term UB recipients established:

  • up to 40 000 long-term UB recipients to undergo intensive interviews conducted jointly by DSS and CES staff. Assessment of labour market prospects, referral to training or work opportunities and counselling provided
  • doubling of labour market program places for target group
  • increased CES job placement activity for target group and
  • transition to work incentives provided including payment of an employment entry payment of $100, waiving of UB waiting period where job did not last, and introduction of a broader vocational activity provision allowing for a wider range of activities to be undertaken by target group without loss of benefit.

1989
July

UB recipients required to seek and accept any part-time, casual or temporary work within their capacity and expected to commute to seek or accept work.

1989
September

UB waiting period extended by up to four weeks if holiday pay received during waiting period.

1989
November

The first of three advances in the timing of indexation (second and third advances occurred in April and September 1990), changing  indexation timing by moving indexation forward by three months from June and December to September and March.

Waiting period of 12 weeks introduced for a UB recipient who changed residence to an area with less employment prospects.

Applicants for, and recipients of, benefit required to provide tax file number.

1990
January

UB recipients aged 55 and over, after 12 months on benefit, allowed to participate in CES-approved training courses or voluntary work for up to 13 weeks at a time or for 26 weeks in the year. Also allowed to participate in regular part-time work paying at least 35 per cent of average weekly earnings as an alternative to the requirement to seek full-time work.

UB recipients aged 55 and over given access to the Newstart Program.

Minimum rate of JSA made subject to indexation on 1 January every year.

Independent rate of JSA, equivalent to AUSTUDY independent rate, introduced for JSA recipients not supported by their parents and therefore not subject to parental income test. .

Employment entry payment of $50 paid to JSA recipients taking up full-time work after at least nine months on JSA.

YHA waiting period abolished for those not able to live at home because of domestic violence, sexual abuse or comparable exceptional circumstances. Waiting periods for other claimants reduced to two weeks. YHA no longer paid as a separate allowance. Those qualifying for YHA paid at homeless rate of JSA, Sickness Allowance (SA) or SpB.

1990
June

UB rate for single beneficiaries aged 60 or over, with no dependants, and on UB for six months, raised to single age pension rate.

1990
August

Disaster relief payment, equivalent to two weeks of maximum age pension rate, introduced for those beneficiaries experiencing disruption because of a major natural disaster. Backdated to December 1989 to cover Newcastle earthquake.

1990
September

Those beneficiaries aged under 21 years without dependants paid at single rate regardless of marital status. Spouses required to qualify in own right before any payment made for them.

Married beneficiaries and spouses permitted to earn additional $30 per fortnight (pf) each from wages before benefit reduced under income test.

An 'at home' rate of $69.20 per week paid to those beneficiaries who were unmarried, aged 18 to 21 years-old, without dependants and living at a parent's home.

Married beneficiaries with a spouse receiving AUSTUDY paid half the combined married rate.

UB recipients could be required to attend CES when requested or their benefit would cease.

Beneficiaries who were custodial parents required to seek reasonable maintenance from non-custodial parent of their children. Failure to seek maintenance could result in non-payment of additional benefit for the children concerned.

Benefits assets test extended to those aged under 25.

1991
January

Beneficiaries required to provide spouse’s tax file number.

1991
February

Liquid assets test introduced

Liquid assets test applied to UB recipients. Claimants with liquid assets (cash and deposits with financial institutions) of $5000 if single or $10 000 if married or single with dependants required to serve additional waiting period of four weeks.

1991
March

Cash in hand and money deposited with financial institutions was deemed to be earning a minimum interest rate for purposes of benefit income means test. First $2000 exempt from this provision.

1991
April

Computerised data matching to detect inconsistent payments made to people by two or more Commonwealth agencies. DSS, Department of Veterans' Affairs, Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, Department of Employment, Education and Training, and Australian Taxation Office involved.

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