A TUC study found the value of out-of-work benefits - currently £64.30 per week - equates to just over 10% of the average wage of £576.80 per week. But back in 1970 when the average wage was £26.10 per week out-of-work benefits numbered £5 per week or 19% of the average wage.
As a result the unions are calling for an increase in jobseekers allowance from £64.30 to £75 per week.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Successive governments have failed to increase unemployment benefits in line with earnings. The result is that people losing their jobs today face a bigger loss in their income than in previous recessions.
"Of course the real challenge is to get people back into work again and the Government is doing much, both through stimulating the economy and through initiatives like the Future Jobs Fund.
"[But] the view that we need low benefits to encourage people into work makes no sense in a recession. The vast majority of the unemployed are desperate for jobs and need no encouragement."