News stories are emerging that the government's reforms to parenting payments have seen single mothers turn to sex work to help make ends meet.
The reforms saw around 80,000 single parents (mostly women) of school aged children being moved off the $341 per week Parenting Payment and onto the $268 per week unemployment benefit Newstart Allowance (before taking into account Family Tax Benefits, the schoolkids bonus, child care benefit and other payments). This measure will save taxpayers more than $700 million over four years.
Generally, people on unemployment benefits like Newstart Allowance are required to accept any job offer they receive – for example, if they are offered a regular administration job in an office close to home they have to accept that job. If they refuse to accept suitable job offers they will have their welfare payments suspended. However, there are a number of sensible exemptions from this requirement.
Unemployed people are not required to enlist in the military or engage in criminal activity, nor are they required to accept work that is 'unsuitable on moral, cultural or religious grounds', that involves an unreasonable commute or… accept offers to work in the sex industry.
While people on welfare may be choosing to look for work in the sex industry, they are neither required to look for work in the sex industry nor required to accept a job in the sex industry if they are offered one as a condition of receiving welfare payments.
Society does not expect nor require people on welfare to engage in sex work – it is their choice and their choice alone. Claims that people on welfare are being 'forced' into stripping and prostitution because of cuts to welfare payments should be treated with scepticism.
Andrew Baker is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.