JobMaker incentive in Federal Budget 2020 is leaving people aged over 35 worried — here’s why

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Some JobSeeker recipients aged over 35 are worried about how they will survive when they can’t get a job because of the Government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit.

They are worried businesses will discriminate against them based on their age.

Under the Government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit, revealed in this week’s Federal Budget, 450,000 jobs are expected to be created for young people.

The scheme will give $200 a week to employers who hire anyone aged 16-30, and $100 a week for any worker aged 30-35.

For employers to be eligible, new employees must have been on JobSeeker and be given at least 20 hours of work a week. All businesses except for the major banks can access the scheme.

It will be available to businesses for up to a year.

But where does that leave people over 35 who are unemployed?

Ian Yates, chief executive of Council Of The Ageing (COTA) said it was concerning the Government only provided supplements to support young people without a parallel for older workers.

“We support the targeting of younger Australians as a vulnerable group. What we’re worried about is there’s not a parallel targeting for those old, mature and older workers, who are also and equally vulnerable,” he said.

“They find it very hard after economic crises to get back into the workforce at a time when they’re trying to support themselves and pay for their retirement.”

Mr Yates said older workers “are often the first off to be made redundant”.

Mother of two now even more nervous

Melanie Olsen, a 43-year-old mother of two who is looking for work, said even before the Budget she was worried about competing with younger job applicants.

But after the Budget she is even more nervous.

“Anyone younger is getting jobs over someone like myself,” she told the ABC’s PM program.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got life experience or you’ve got experience in that field; they want someone either younger who they can pay less and they can train or they’ve just come out of [university] with a degree.

“It doesn’t help with your self-esteem.”

After her position was made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Olsen told the ABC she was applying for about 10 jobs a week.

She thought the JobMaker scheme would be a disincentive for businesses to hire workers like her.

As a woman who is over the age of 35, Ms Olsen she said there was not enough support.

“The whole thing is depressing,” she said.

“There are more and more people losing jobs and there are more and more people every time you apply for a job trying to apply for the same job.”

One of Ms Olsen’s children is in child care and she said that without additional childcare support, she was worried she was going backwards financially.

“One hundred per cent [we are] going backwards right now,” she said.

“Before COVID hit you could have two people in a relationship go out and earn as much money or as little money as they wanted and have families and all of that.

“Then you lose your job because of COVID and depending on what your partner earns, you don’t even get anything [because of the JobSeeker partner income test].”

Federal Budget made one Victorian ‘sick in the stomach’

Jeremy Williams is a 49-year-old living in Tullamarine, Victoria.

He was employed at a large commercial furniture manufacturer for 10 years.

But he found himself out of a job in April when the pandemic hit the business hard.

“I was retrenched specifically due to coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Williams said he applied for JobSeeker immediately upon being made redundant but says he will not be eligible for payments until November 13.

“To date I believe I got one payment of $150,” Mr Williams said.

The situation was made more difficult when he had to use most of his redundancy payout to pay off his credit card debt, leaving him no choice but to access his superannuation.

“Once I found out that I would have no support from Centrelink until November, I realised if I failed to find a job I could not afford to keep paying the interest and stretch my money to [then].”

He said he had managed to find some work, but it was only a trickle.

“I got an ABN and managed to get some work for a chair company in Knoxfield doing an environmental product certification. Such things are slow going. In four months I have only billed $1,800,” he said.

Upon hearing Tuesday’s Federal Budget, Mr Williams said he felt “sick in the stomach” and did not sleep that night.

“I feel that I am being discriminated against due to my age, as a long-time taxpayer I do not understand how while everyone else in the economy seems to be getting supported, I have not been at all.”

“I am a good citizen,” he said.

“Now with the supplement to under-35’s I think [employers] would be more likely to look for the savings they can get with a younger person.”

‘I have lost a certain amount of hope’

Lydia Godding says she is lucky to have a roof over her head.

The 49-year-old is currently living with her parents in Brisbane.

Without that fortune she says she would be living out of her car.

Ms Godding spent 25 years in the United States, before returning to Australian in 2018.

She had been working as a casual 15 hours per week in retail, but no longer had a job when the company let her go in April.

“As I listened to the presentation of the budget report last night I was initially encouraged, then devastated at being blindsided by the introduction of the incentive,” Ms Godding told the ABC.

“What employer is going to hire me when they can get someone under 35 and cash incentives at the same time?”

Not wanting to be defeated by the pandemic, Ms Godding told the ABC she was actively looking for a job and had applied to go to university.

However, she admits the uncertainty of the future is a major concern.

“I have lost a certain amount of hope in being employed for the next 20-plus years and retiring,” she said.

“Finding a job I am more than capable of doing and being able to be less reliant on my parents and government assistance is looking more bleak and depressing.”

Albanese says he fears people will be driven into poverty

The Federal Opposition has targeted employment and job security in its critique of the Federal Budget.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese highlighted workers over 35 as a major flaw in the budget while speaking on AM on Wednesday morning.

“JobKeeper and wage subsidies will end in March. The unemployment benefits are going back to $40 a day, driving people into poverty,” he said.

“And if you’re over 35, you’ll be competing against people who are being given some wage support. So, you’ll be at a disadvantage.”

Mr Albanese said there were around 928,000 people who were currently aged over 35 and on unemployment benefits.

“We don’t think those people should be just thrown on the scrap heap. We want to see people put into work, young people as well as older workers.”

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers and the Shadow Minister for Employment and Industry, Brendan O’Connor, were just as critical in their assessment of the Federal Budget.

The pair released a joint statement claiming the Government was “excluding” people like Melanie Olsen and Jeremy Williams.

“If Scott Morrison was serious about driving down unemployment and kickstarting the recovery, he would not be excluding almost a million Australians,” they said.

“These Australians are rapidly approaching the JobSeeker Christmas cliff with no certainty about the future of their support payments and will now find themselves competing with a subsidised younger workforce.”

Could JobMaker cost older Australians the jobs they already have?

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg completed the usual post-Budget day media tour on Wednesday, spruiking the Government’s plan for Australia’s economic future.

During his appearance at the National Press Club, the Treasurer was quizzed about the possibility of employers rorting the system.

Mr Frydenberg says businesses that take up wage subsidies for hiring young workers will be subject to a two-pronged test to make sure they are not rorting the new scheme.

He was asked if businesses could fire an older staff member and hire a younger employee, whose wages would be subsidised, in their place.

“Based on the numbers as at the end of September the headcount [of staff] has to be higher and the payroll needs to be higher,” the Treasurer replied.

“That is the integrity test that is designed to support additional people coming into a business.”

Employment Minister defends Government’s focus on young people

A disproportionate number of young people out of work and an existing program for older Australians is why JobMaker is aimed at 16-35-year-olds, the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said.

“We know that young people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the Government wants to avoid the scarring that happens when young people lose work in recessions and struggle to return to the workforce,” Senator Cash said.

“But this is not at the expense of mature-age employees.”

Senator Cash pointed to an existing program called Restart that provided businesses with up to $10,000 if they hired older workers.

“This helps eligible job seekers who are aged 50 or over and have been on income support for six months,” she said.

“And it’s actually helped over 50,000 mature-age Australians get a job in recent years.”

What is the Restart program?

The Restart wage subsidy was announced by the Federal Government in the 2014 Federal Budget — the first budget delivered by then-prime minister Tony Abbott and then-treasurer Joe Hockey.

The scheme offers a financial incentive of up to $10,000 for employers to take on a worker aged 50 or older.

Similar to the JobMaker scheme, the employee must average 20 hours of work per week.

The scheme requires the worker to be employed for 26 weeks before the employer receives the money.

There is also a training program for those over the age of 45 who are seeking a job.

More than 6,000 people have participated in the Career Transition Assistance (CTA) program since it was expanded in 2019, according to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Around 950 of these participants signed up in June because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department says.

By Alexis Moran, Michael Doyle, David Taylor, Jade Macmillan (Original ABC Article)