Fraction of nation's support system spent on unemployment benefits
Fraction of nation's support system spent on unemployment benefits

Economic growth outstrips welfare needs

THE bill for Australia's welfare system is growing slower than the national economy despite Abbott Government plans to cut back on support for the nation's most vulnerable.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's annual report on the state of the welfare system was released on Thursday and showed the Federal Government's welfare spending has grown an average 2.6% a year between 2003-04 and 2013-14.

Over the same period, the average annual economic growth rate was 2.9%.

The total welfare bill was $136.5 billion in 2013-14 - $93 billion of which was for "cash payments to specific populations", with only $7.5 billion going to "unemployment benefits".

The report's release follows the government's decision last week to take off the agenda a controversial measure to move thousands of young Australians off the more generous Newstart Allowance to the Youth Allowance.

The bill containing that proposal would appear unlikely to get enough crossbench support in the Senate to pass, mostly due to a measure that would make 75,000 young unemployed Australians wait four weeks before they could access benefits.

The Institute's report also showed more young people were unemployed and staying at their parents' home longer, and more were working in casual jobs rather than full-time roles.

Institute acting director Kerry Flanagan said the report had found most young people were studying or working.

Ms Flanagan said "on the other hand", one in 37 children was in child protection and youth unemployment had grown from 8% in 2003-04 to more than 13% this year.