Older Australians have suffered a sharp spike in job losses and reduced wages since March 2020, raising concerns that the Australian Government’s new young worker job hiring credit has backfired and is putting over 60s out of work.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Friday show that Australians in their 60s and 70s have been hardest hit by COVID-19 related payroll job and wage losses.
Nearly one in five (18.6 per cent) of payroll jobs occupied by people aged 70 years and over disappeared between March 2020 to January 2021.
It was a similar story for over 60s. More than one in ten (or 11.6 per cent) of jobs occupied by people aged 60-69 have disappeared between March and January.
This is well above the 6.4 per cent reduction in jobs for people aged 20-29, and 6.1 per cent reduction for people aged 30-39, during the same period.
Meanwhile, since March 2020, over 70s have seen their total wages fall by 16.6 per cent while people aged 60-69 have suffered a 12.3 per cent drop.
This compares to 1.9 per cent increase in wages for people aged 20-29 over the same period, and a 6.2 per cent cut for all age groups.
JobMaker hiring credit may be making things worse
Despite the above figures, the government’s signature policy from its 2020-21 Budget was to introduce the JobMaker Hiring Credit for young workers.
The scheme, which began in October 2020, provides employers with a $200 per week payment for new employees aged 16 to 29, and $100 per week for new employees aged 30 to 35.
When the Australian Senate debated the scheme last year, the ALP and the Greens raised concerns it could be used to replace more expensive older workers with cheaper younger workers.
However, amendments proposed by these two parties - which would have required that the hiring credit could not be used if the employer terminates the employment of an existing employee - were voted down by the Senate with the crucial and last-minute support of Senator Pauline Hanson.
In response to a query by Downsizing.com.au, Council of the Ageing (COTA) Chief Executive Ian Yates said the government’s hiring credit scheme was creating barriers to older Australians finding and retaining a job at a time when they were most vulnerable.
The ABS’s analysis of Australia’s Single Touch Payroll wages proves that workers over 60 have experienced the biggest reduction in the number of jobs, and the amount of wages paid, compared with any other age group since the pandemic started,” Mr Yates said.
"Being the highest cohort of all age groups matches with the calls COTA receives from older workers struggling to find the hours they want or the job they need.
Ageism is a proven barrier to being hired by a younger manager, but the Government’s JobMaker program for under 35’s is adding barriers to older workers finding a job.”
Mr Yates argued that the JobMaker scheme should be amended to also cover workers over 60, arguing this would “put older workers back on a more even playing field in the job market”.
As figures continue to be released we’ll vigorously pursue discussions with the government about how they are going to support older workers get back into the workforce throughout this pandemic,” Mr Yates said.
"Leaving them at the mercy of age discrimination aided and abetted by JobMaker guidelines is unacceptable.”
ARE YOU AN OVER 50 WHO HAS BEEN MADE REDUNDANT AS A RESULT OF CORONAVIRUS OR THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT SCHEME? PLEASE EMAIL US AT [email protected] WITH YOUR STORY SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO COVER THIS ISSUE
The government’s decision is of particular interest to many Australians over 50 who are considering downsizing.
An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report published in 2014 found that retirement was a trigger for around one in six downsizing decisions.
Similarly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in 2018-19, around 11 per cent of people who entered retirement did so after they were retrenched, dismissed or because no work was available. People who do downsize are increasingly using their home sale proceeds to help fund their retirement.