Wait for Welfare Benefits May Affect 60,000 Immigrant Families in Australia

The Australian government plans to increase the waiting period for migrants to avail state benefits from the current two years to four years.


Tens of thousands of immigrant families would be impacted if the proposal to increase the waiting period for people to access welfare benefits and tax benefits is implemented, a Senate Estimates hearing revealed on May 31, SBS News reported.

As many as 66,000 migrant families may have to wait for four years for tax benefits, while 47,000 people could be affected by the restriction for accessing Newstart allowance — the income support payment while a person is unemployed and looking for work — Youth Allowance and other payments, if the proposed measures pass the parliament, officials of the Department of Social Services told senators, according to Daily Mail. The information was furnished after senators inquired from officials during a Senate Estimates hearing about the number of immigrants who would be affected by the plan.

The federal government is proposing to extend the waiting period for migrants to access welfare payments to four years from July 1. In its budget announcement on May 8, the government said that the waiting period for migrants to avail state benefits, such as paid parental leave, carers allowance and the family tax benefit, will go up from the current two years to four years.

The extension of the waiting period from the current two to three years was announced in December in a budget review. Extending the waiting period to four years will save the government an additional A$200 million. Shane Bennett, Department of Social Services officer however, underplayed concerns that the proposal could discourage immigration.

“There is evidence from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that reflects access to social security systems is not necessarily high on the factors people consider,” Bennett told the Senate hearing, Daily Mail reported.

Bennett added that a Productivity Commission report from 2016 showed that non-humanitarian permanent migrants “had effectively lower take-up rates of income support to the general population.”

The move to extend the wait period will “encourage self-sufficiency for newly arrived migrants,” a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services had earlier told SBS News. The spokesperson added that the move was designed to ensure that migrants who come to Australia for “economic reasons” know that they should be “well-placed to support themselves” when they arrive in the country.

The department said that Newly arrived immigrants who face sudden loss of funds because of a significant change in circumstances, including those who are victims of family violence, will be granted exemptions.

Indians constitute one of the largest migrant groups in Australia, who move to the country to either work or to pursue higher education. Nearly 190,000 foreign students applied to study in Australia between July and December 2017, with the number of Indian applicants rising by 32 per cent, according to the latest statistics released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

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