Cuts to hit older Australians hardest

It may have been a happy start to the new year for many, but for older Australians on JobSeeker, life just got a little tougher.

As of 1 January, 1.3 million JobSeeker recipients lost $100 a fortnight as the federal government reduced the coronavirus supplement from $250 to $150.

And while many may think younger Australians and families would be worst hit by the cuts, it seems older Aussies are bearing the brunt of the payment reduction.

The $250 coronavirus supplement was paid on top of regular welfare payments every two weeks from 25 September.

From 27 April to 25 September, the coronavirus supplement was $550 a fortnight.

The government reduced the supplement down to $150 on Friday and intends to end the scheme on 31 March.

According to new figures released by the Department of Social Services (DSS), fewer people aged 55 and older came off welfare payments during October and November than younger people, indicating they may be more dependent on the scheme. 

Just under four per cent (3.8 per cent) of people aged between 25 and 34 came off welfare, compared to 0.8 per cent of Australians aged 55 and over. 

The payment cut has been dubbed ‘cruel’ by Financial Counselling Australia chief executive officer Fiona Guthrie.

“People don’t have enough money to live on. It’s impossible,” she told the Daily Telegraph.

“This is almost the worst time to be trying to manage on less money because you have Christmas bills coming in and children going back to school.”

Many older workers who had a ‘better work ethic’ aren’t getting job interviews, says Small Business Australia founder Amanda Rose, who claimed it was more difficult for older people to get a job post pandemic.

“People who are over 50, they are less likely to get a job. They are looking for work and they have a better work ethic and want to work, but people aren’t hiring them,” she said.

“There are jobs out there especially for the younger ones, but I work with women who are 50 plus and they can’t get a job, they can’t get an interview.”

JobSeeker and Youth Allowance recipients dropped from 1.498 million in October to 1.454 million in November. Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says it’s a positive sign more recipients were finding work.

“It is pleasing that we are seeing Australians moving off social security payments and back into the workforce as economic confidence builds and the labour market outlook improves,” she said.

“As we go forward, the government’s absolute focus is on jobs creation through JobMaker and helping people to re-skill through JobTrainer because we know that getting a job is a real game changer in anyone’s life.”

As YourLifeChoices reported in October 2020, the JobMaker program favours workers under 35 and leaves older workers out in the cold.

In fact, Council on the Ageing (COTA) chief executive Ian Yates claims older workers are losing their jobs as a result of the JobMaker initiative.

“We are very worried,” he said.

“Already we’ve seen reports of older workers being laid off so they can be replaced with JobMaker workers.”

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten is concerned the payment cuts and the end of JobKeeper in March will mean more businesses will be forced to close, particularly in regional areas.

“We’re going to see more insolvencies … in 2021,” he said.

“For the young people living out of home, maybe their family live in the country, and they’re in the city trying to make a living, these cuts are just too tough, so I think the government should reconsider it because we’re not out of the woods yet with this pandemic.”

According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, a growing number of economists support a permanent increase to the base rate of JobSeeker and want a review of JobKeeper before it ends in March.

Are you receiving the coronavirus supplement? Will you cope once it’s gone?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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