Most JobSeeker, JobKeeper payments being spent on the essentials

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on December 15, 2020
Most JobSeeker, JobKeeper payments being spent on the essentials

Australians receiving coronavirus stimulus payments spent most of it on household essentials, a new survey shows.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) household impacts survey found paying household bills was the most common use of the JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement (67%) and the JobKeeper Payment (78%).

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            JobSeeker payment use 

            According to the ABS' data, one in 11 Australians (9%) reported receiving the JobSeeker payment in November - other data shows there is around 1.5 million still on the payment. 

            Of these Australians, paying household bills was the most commonly reported use at 67%, followed by purchasing household supplies like groceries (63.3%), and paying mortgages and rent (38.9%). 

            Other popular uses of the JobSeeker stimulus included paying for medical services (26.1%), saving it (26.3%) and paying down credit card and personal debt (19.1%). 

            [Read: Income support measures saved millions from poverty in 2020

            The latter two are supported by other data: Australia's household savings ratio skyrocketed to 19.8% in June off the back of JobKeeper and increased JobSeeker, while recent Reserve Bank data showed Australians reduced their overall credit card debt by almost 24% nationally since March. 


            According to the data, only 14.9% reported using their JobSeeker payment on discretionary items like clothing and footwear and 17.5% on recreational activities. 

            When asked what their main use of the supplement was, 31% reported mainly using the payment on household bills and 26% said household supplies and groceries. 

            The JobSeeker coronavirus supplement is currently $250 per week, and is decreasing to $150 in January before reverting to the old Newstart rate in April. 

            [Comment: Just how much should JobSeeker be increased by?

            Queensland has the most JobSeekers 

            When broken down by state, the sunshine state was also the JobSeeker state, with JobSeeker recipients accounting for 12% of all people living in Queensland. 

            One in ten (10%) Victorians and South Australians were on JobSeeker, while this figure was 8% for Western Australia. 

            In New South Wales, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, JobSeeker recipients made up only 6% of the population. 

            JobKeeper payment use 

            The JobKeeper payment meanwhile, introduced to keep people employed and businesses open through shutdowns, was also widely used and successful. 

            As many as 14% of Australians were on JobKeeper in September, while the latest November data shows one in 17 (6%) are still getting it from their employer. 

            Paying household bills (78%) was the most commonly reported use of the JobKeeper Payment, followed by household supplies (groceries) at 63% and mortgage or rent payments (54%). 

            A higher portion of JobKeeper recipients used their stimulus cheques to pay off debts compared to JobSeekers, with 24% reporting doing so. 

            Around one in five (22%) used it to pay for medical services, 16.5% reported saving some of it, and 15.4% used it to pay for clothing and footwear. 


            Almost a third (31%) of JobKeeper recipients mainly used the subsidy for household bills (when asked to pick their biggest expenditure), and 26% used it for household supplies. 

            JobKeeper vs JobSeeker: What were stimulus payments used on? 




            Household bills



            Household supplies/groceries 









            Medical services or supplies 



            Credit card/personal debt 









            Furnishings/household equipment 



            The proportion of people receiving the Coronavirus Supplement who reported using the payment for each item in the last four weeks. Source: ABS.

            Incomes not higher for those on JobKeeper 

            Most people reported lower incomes while on JobKeeper, with 72% (nearly three-quarters) saying so. 

            One in five (20%) reported the same or similar incomes, while only 9% received more income than usual. 

            Economic modelling undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) in November found the combined JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments spared half a million households from housing affordability stress

            Photo by Atoms on Unsplash

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            William Jolly joined as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research firm Canstar. In William's articles, you're likely to find complex financial topics and products broken down into everyday language. He is deeply passionate about improving the financial literacy of Australians and providing them with resources on how to save money in their everyday lives.

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