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Budget's youth work focus leaves older JobSeeker claimants out in cold: welfare groups

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A federal budget wage subsidy to encourage employers to create jobs for young workers aged up to 35 has prompted concerns from South Australian business and welfare groups that older unemployed will be left out in the cold.

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Tuesday night’s economic blueprint outlined a $4 billion program offering businesses credit to hire young job seekers.

Newly-hired workers under 30 will draw a $200 weekly government subsidy to work at least 20 hours a week, while someone aged between 30 and 35 will attract $100.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the scheme was tipped to create 450,000 jobs.

“We settled on 35, because young people have been particularly impacted by this crisis,” he said.

But there was no incentive to hire the more than 900,000 people aged over 35 currently unemployed in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the scheme saying data clearly showed the pandemic had hit women and young people the hardest, and that bosses who sacked older workers to hire younger ones wouldn’t get the government subsidies.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that while the budget was “very strong”, it didn’t offer much for older unemployed South Australians.

“There are so many skilled people who are really above the age of 35 and then they miss out,” Haese said.

“But I must say, on the balance of probability, this budget is a very, very strong budget and this really could propel South Australia and the South Australian business community to employ more people.”

“These are measures targeted to younger Australians that we know from experience are among the most at risk in the wake of an economic downturn.”

SA Council of Social Services CEO Ross Womersely said the subsidy encouraged employers to pick staff according to age.

“As an employer, you’re highly likely to take advantage of the concessions that are there, which will mean ignoring people over the age of 35,” he said.

“We know with the Covid crisis, the people who’ve principally lost their jobs are women and young people in a much more disproportionate way compared to men, and of course people over the age of 45.

“So we would have liked to have seen this kind of measure targeting all of those groups with the capacity to really draw all of those people who’ve been particularly disadvantaged as part of the Covid crisis in the job market back into work.”

Council on the Ageing SA CE Jane Mussared said older unemployed had missed out.

“The big disappointment for us was the lack of any kind of initiative that would support older workers,” Mussared said.

“We’re very supportive of the initiatives around younger unemployed and boosting the unemployment market, but this has failed to address the other really vulnerable group which is older workers – there is nothing in this budget for them at all.

“They will continue to be an increasing number of redundancies, they will fair very poorly in the job market, they already are, but Covid has made that even more precarious and they will be locked out for the rest of their careers.”

Mussared said what while the budget also provided “a little bit of good news” for older Australians reliant on home care, with the release of 23,000 home care places, it was “a long way short of what’s required”.

“For example, there are 2000 level four packages released nationally, starting in 2020 but rolled out over four years but 15,000 waiting,” she said.

“People are waiting at the moment up to 15 months for a package, they are dying waiting and having to move off into residential aged care for them.

“So it’s a bigger allocation than we’ve had before but it’s still well short of the mark, so we’ll be looking forward to the May 20-21 budget because we’ve got to address that. People shouldn’t be waiting for a month for the home care they need.”

Mussared said two $250 supplements for aged, disability and support pensions and carer’s payment to be paid on December 2 and in March were “very important”, but criticised a ‘zero investment in social housing infrastructure”.

“We have a straight supply problem in terms of the adequacy of social housing and that gives twice. There’s the benefit to people who get house but also the economic stimulus an employment opportunity to building social housing,” she said.

“So we’re very disappointed that achieved no attention.”

Womersley said the budget was good for employed South Australians

“You’re going to get a nice little tax cut, which will put more money in your pocket,” he said.

“But the interesting thing is most people, historically, had actually saved that money rather than spent it. And of course, the business strategy that is underpinned in this budget is about all of us getting out there and spending.”

The Australian Council of Social Service said the budget provided “a glimmer of hope on jobs for young people in a really tough year” but offered little to older unemployed.

“We’re calling for the wage subsidy for young people to be urgently extended to people of all ages who have been unemployed for a year or longer,” SACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

Goldie also called on the government to announce a permanent JobSeeker payment, at a higher rate than the $40 a day, $550 a fortnight paid before the pandemic.

“The country’s leading economists have been telling the Government that an adequate JobSeeker rate is far more effective than income tax cuts in generating the economic stimulus we need to rebuild out of recession,” she said.

According to analysis from The Australia Institute, the income tax changes announced in the Budget will disproportionately advantage wealthy Australians both now and into the future.

The Benefit of Tax Changes 2020-21 report found the limited, temporary benefit that will flow to Australians on low and middle incomes this year will be replaced by larger, permanent tax cuts given to high income earners from financial year 2021-22 onwards.

The Australia Institute senior economist Matt Grudnoff said the budget provided a “temporary boost to lower and middle-income earners and a permanent boost to the wealthiest people in the country”.

“Our research shows that low- and middle-income earners will actually be paying more tax next financial year than they are this year,” he said.

“Regular Australians and those who are struggling will get a hand out this financial year while wealthy Australian get a tax cut that is legislated forever.

“Gearing this tax plan towards wealthy Australians will permanently widen inequality in Australia and increase the chances of it being saved rather than spent, undermining its already limited stimulatory effect.”

-with AAP

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