Women older than 60 made up the biggest proportion of JobSeeker recipients before the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are fears women are retiring into poverty due to the low rate of the payment.
In 2001 the largest proportion of recipients was made up of men aged between 25 and 29, followed by men aged between 21 and 24 - but by 2019 it was older people, particularly women, who made up the largest proportion of recipients.
The Parliamentary Budget Office on Wednesday released research on the JobSeeker unemployment payment, and its predecessor Newstart.
The number of older women on the unemployment payment has increased significantly, and more recipients are on the payment for longer, the research showed. This is partly due to policy changes that have moved women who would have previously received partner payments, but also due to an increase in the age at which people can receive the aged pension, which has also affected men.
In 2019, before the pandemic hit, half of the recipients of the payment were 45 years or older.
"Overall, JobSeeker appears to be functioning as a kind of pre-age-pension payment for some older Australians," the report said.
While the government has signalled it is unlikely to reduce the JobSeeker payment to its pre-COVID level of $40 a day, it has not committed to a new amount past December, and advocates say this research shows it should not be reduced.
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie labelled the new research "deeply concerning".
"It's vital that the government invests in wage subsidies and training for people who are at risk of long-term unemployment," she said.
"We also need to see increased investment in care services such as aged care and childcare, which generate more jobs - especially for women - than the same amount invested in infrastructure."
Dr Goldie said more people will struggle to find work due to the recession.
"We must ensure that those people who could not get paid work even before this crisis hit, including older women, are not left behind in entrenched unemployment," she said.
Greens senator Rachel Siewert, the party's spokeswoman on community affairs, said Australia was "looking at a crisis of older women retiring into poverty".
"Before this crisis hit, almost half of people on Newstart had an illness or disability," Senator Siewert said.
"These are people that should be properly supported or on DSP [Disability Support Pension], not threatened with having a payment taken away because they are too sick to look for jobs."