Mature age jobless ignored

YourLifeChoices reported on Monday that the typical ‘welfare’ recipient is now aged 55 – or older. That revelation came from no less an authority than the latest Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

And an increasing number of older Australians relying on JobSeeker payments are women over 60.

Last night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Budget was about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and announced a list of measures to get young Australians back in the COVID-wrecked workforce.

He conceded the unemployment rate might not recover to its pre-COVID level until 2024 and is still expected to hit 8 per cent by year’s end, but said forecast economic growth combined with the Budget measures could be expected to create 950,000 jobs over four years.

Mr Frydenberg outlined the new JobMaker hiring credit to encourage businesses to take on young workers, paid for a year at $200 a week for those aged under 30, and $100 a week for those aged 30 to 35.

He also said 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships would be covered by a 50 per cent government wage subsidy at a cost of $1.2b over four years.

But … mature age and older workers had received no targeted support despite being equally vulnerable to long-term unemployment as a result of the COVID-induced recession. Even though the fastest growing group receiving JobSeeker is women aged 45-plus.

“The big problem for old people is if they do get laid off, their probability of getting into work is much lower,” Jeff Borland, a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne, told The Guardian.

“Part of that is the skills older workers have had and areas they’ve worked in were not really expanding. It was a bigger problem than just the economy.”

Conny Lenneberg, executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, highlighted another issue for older Australians – hiring discrimination. She told The Guardian that research suggests some employers write off older workers as not equipped for the modern workforce, as overqualified. And in the case of older women, who are overrepresented in industries such as retail and tourism, they become “invisible”.

“As women get older, there’s a real sense that if you’re not pretty, you’re not presentable,” Ms Lenneberg says, citing the Brotherhood’s own research.

“They’re invisible – people just don’t see them, they don’t want to see them.”

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia CEO Ian Yates said he welcomed the support aimed at getting young people employed, but was disappointed there was no parallel support to keep older Australians in work.

“They are equally vulnerable to redundancy, age discrimination and being locked out of the workforce,” he said, “and we are fearful this will be exacerbated by the failure to match youth subsidies.”

University of Melbourne economist Professor Mark Wooden has questioned the age focus and the prioritising of young people over older workers.

“I worry if they [the government] are somewhat sucked in by the argument that young people have been much worse affected economically,” he told the Australian Financial Review.

“That’s true but I think that’s true in all recessions. Young people do worse, they lose jobs faster. But they also do better in the recovery.”

JobKeeper will continue through to 28 March 2021, but was cut from the $1500 fortnightly rate at the end of September. The future of JobSeeker payment rates – the coronavirus supplement was cut from $550 to $250 a fortnight in late September – is not yet known.

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Written by Janelle Ward

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