Calls for pensioners to be allowed to earn more

A leading business body has written to federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg, pleading with him to allow pensioners to be allowed to earn more money without affecting their pension payments as a way of addressing the worker shortage.

Business Sydney executive director Paul Nicolaou told News Ltd that the emergence of the Omicron variant had worsened the shortage of backpackers, international students and visa holders, and that some creative thinking could see older Australians filling these vacancies.

The Work Bonus rules allow for a pensioner to earn up to $300 of employment income a fortnight, up to a maximum of $7800 a year, without reducing their Age Pension payments.

Read: Centrelink’s ‘absurd and wrong’ decision to cancel pension

The Work Bonus allowance is on top of the income allowance for pensioners, which is $180 per fortnight for singles and $320 per fortnight for couples, before their pension payments start to reduce under the income test.

In his letter to Mr Frydenberg, Mr Nicolaou told News Ltd that allowing pensioners to earn more money may provide enough incentive to invite them back to the workforce to add to their retirement savings pool.

“Increasing the limit would allow pensioners the opportunity to earn more money in this current climate and would help businesses who are struggling to find staff have access to a pool of potential workers,” Mr Nicolaou said.

Read: Climate deal could put pensions at risk: Deputy PM

As an example of how the worker shortage was affecting Sydney, Mr Nicolaou said that more than 280 food and beverage attendant jobs needed to be filled at The Star.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 3.9 million retirees currently in Australia with 55 per cent of people over the age of 55 now retired.

Mr Nicolaou said he hoped that any change to the Work Bonus scheme could be made within weeks as part of the government’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO).

Read: Keyboard slip costs couple $20,000 in pension payments

Former employment minister Craig Laundy, owner of the Laundy Hotels chain of pubs and restaurants, backed the plan as a viable solution to address the worker shortage, without hurting the Federal Budget.

“The move technically won’t cost the Federal Budget anything and would be another tool to help combat the labour shortage,” said Mr Laundy.

“Australians making more money means they are more likely to spend in the local economy.”

Social services minister Anne Ruston told News Ltd that the government was looking at a range of other initiatives to tackle the skills shortages across the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are working with business to address the skills shortages emerging as the economy reopens through a range of initiatives including our record $6.4 billion investment in skills and training and the new Disability Employment Strategy which we launched Friday,” Senator Ruston said.

Business owner Paul Signorelli said his venue, Doltone House, urgently needed 150 workers and he would happily employ older Australians in the roles if they were available.

“Our older workers are some of our best employees, as they have a great manner, are well qualified and are extremely dedicated,” Mr Signorelli said.

“We are suffering from a massive shortage in chefs, sales people, wait staff, event management, public relations, security, concierge and other roles.”

Would you consider returning to the workforce if it wouldn’t affect your pension payments? What do you think of this plan as a solution to the worker shortage in Australia? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Written by Ben