It’s no easy road for manufacturing workers turfed out of a job — they’re in an even worse spot than a Minister who swallows the hand grenade when asked if she could live on the dole.

Labor backbenchers, the Greens and social welfare groups are pressing for a boost to Newstart in the May budget, and Wayne Swan has some room to move on this now he’s ditched his surplus pledge.

Life is undeniably tough for those on Newstart, but before we race to add $50 a week to dole payments on the back of the outrage which followed Jenny Macklin’s gaffe, let’s take a deeper look and properly analyse policy options and costs. Writing in Crikey today, Sally Whyte looks into what some other countries do for their unemployed and finds different models at work.

Increasing unemployment benefits is a substantial economic reform which will affect the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable people — as well as affecting incentives to work and to leave the inter-generational welfare trap. Less populism and emotion from both sides, and more considered policy analysis, might yield better outcomes.

This issue is about so much more than whether Macklin could live on the dole.

Peter Fray

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