The 2020-21 Australian Budget had a strong focus on helping younger Australians get back to work or into a home, but failed to provide the same initiatives for over 50s.

It was hoped that the budget may announce initiatives to help Australians downsize as part of a government retirement incomes review, or unveil an extension of the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant to newly-built retirement property.

In the end, it did none of these things, although there was a welcome announcement that granny flat arrangements would soon be exempt from capital gains tax.

The budget’s centrepiece $4 billion JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme is limited to younger people.

From 7 October, eligible employers will be able to claim $200 a week for each additional eligible employee they hire aged 16 to 29 years old and $100 a week for each additional eligible employee aged 30 to 35 years old. 

The government also unveiled a $1.2 billion scheme over four years to provide a new wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees.

To some extent, the focus on young workers was understandable, given that Australians aged 15-34 have suffered the biggest falls in employment since February 2020 due to the COVID-19 related economic downturn.

However, the initiative also flies in the face of comments by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in November last year that there needed to be more training support for older workers and the difficulty that retrenched older workers will have getting back in the workforce.

Similarly, when it comes to housing reforms, the government elected to extend the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. This scheme is rarely used by over 50s, given that Australians closer to retirement typically want to avoid mortgage-funded home purchases.

This scheme will provide an additional 10,000 guarantees in 2020-21 to allow eligible first home buyers to build a new home or purchase a newly-constructed home with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent.

In the end, the main initiatives of interest to Australian over 50s were:

  • A $500 cash handout to pensioners 
  • A $2 billion, four year package to provide additional home care packages as well as continuing to improve transparency and regulatory standards in the aged care industry
  • An additional $28.3 million over four years to support Australians aged over 50 to gain the skills they need to participate in the digital economy, through the BeConnected program.

Council of the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said the budget did little to support older workers and renters.

“We know that older workers are vulnerable to redundancy, age discrimination and once they lose the job later in life - being locked out of the workforce until pension age,” Mr Yates said.

“We note many economists are fearful that youth subsidies will incentivise business to retrench older workers.

“While appreciative that the $10,000 Restart wage subsidy continues for employees over 50, this program could have been amended to match tonight’s announcement of youth subsidies.

“We also continue to be disappointed that the government has not taken the budget opportunity to release the Retirement Income Review. 

“We will continue to call on the government to release this independent, once in a generation review of our retirement income system, so that we can all share the rich data it provides on what’s working and what’s not adequate, so we can discuss positive ways forward to strengthen pensions and superannuation.”

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