- Businesses said financial circumstances have improved, with one in five planning to increase staff numbers over the next three months, according to an ABS survey.
- The results paint an uncertain picture for workers who are set to lose the support of the federal government’s JobKeeper program on March 31.
- On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said he anticipated between 100,000 to 150,000 JobKeeper recipients could lose their jobs.
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Businesses say their financial circumstances have improved and fewer are using government support measures, according to new ABS data. But that still may not be enough to protect the up to 150,000 workers projected to lose their jobs when the government’s federal Jobkeeper program ends on Sunday.
The results showed 46% of businesses expected it to be easier for them to meet financial commitments over the next three months, compared to 23% in August 2020.
In a statement accompanying the report, ABS head of industry statistics John Shepherd said the results also showed fewer businesses reported decreasing revenue, falling from 41% in August 2020 to 22% in March 2021.
There was also a pronounced drop in the number of businesses using support measures, with less than a third (29%) of businesses accessing support in March.
This is compared to 73% of businesses accessing support in May 2020.
However, it’s still unclear whether businesses emerging from government support will be enough to protect vulnerable workers who have been clinging to employment via the federal JobKeeper scheme.
On Tuesday Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy announced between 100,000 to 150,000 JobKeeper recipients could lose their jobs after the subsidy comes to an end on March 31, though he added there is a “wide band of uncertainty” around those numbers.
Further, the ABS report found that “wage subsidies were the most common support measure accessed in March” at 21% Shepherd said.
It found that small businesses were less likely than medium and large businesses to be accessing this support.
20% of small businesses said they used government support in March, compared to 29% of medium businesses and 23% of large businesses.
In 2020, as business conditions improved and eligibility requirements became stricter, fewer Australians accessed the scheme, with 1.53 million Australians receiving the wage subsidy by the end of 2020 compared to 3.8 million in September.
“Based on data from the month of January, we now estimate that around 1.1 million individuals will be supported by JobKeeper in the March quarter,” Kennedy said.
He added the numbers were lower than the government’s MYEFO estimate that put JobKeeper recipient numbers at 1.3 million, and said it was “reasonable to assume that as the labour market continues to improve over the March quarter, recipients’ dependence on the program will continue to decline.”
The projections square with the ABS report’s insights about businesses plans for 2021.
Almost one in five (19%) responded that they expect staff numbers to increase over the next three months.
And of those anticipating an increase in staff, more than half (58%) said they expect the jobs to be permanent.
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