- The federal government’s JobMaker scheme is coming under attack for excluding workers over the age of 35.
- On Thursday, Labor MP Tony Bourke presented 16 different job ads specifically seeking JobMaker eligible workers so as to secure the wage credit.
- The federal government however rejected the suggestion older workers could be replaced by younger ones, while the unions demanded a plan to generate more secure work as JobKeeper is phased out.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
The federal government’s new centrepiece jobs policy is being slammed for its “deep flaws”, as older Australians are overlooked for work.
On Thursday, the federal opposition flourished 16 different job advertisements in Parliament in which employers require applicants to qualify for JobMaker.
“Yesterday in this House the minister said that job ads state a preference for workers who are under 35 and eligible for the hiring credit should not exist under the Fair Work Act,” Labor MP Tony Burke said.
“I have here 16 jobs advertised online, all of which prefer or require applicants to be eligible for the hiring credit. What action has the minister taken since Labor raised this action yesterday?”
A cursory search of job sites shows it is a small sample, returning dozens of results which insist applicants “must meet the JobMaker requirements”. Representing a wage discount of up to $200 per week per employee, the incentive of hiring workers eligible for the JobMaker credit is clear.
However, while the policy is intended to generate new work, Labor has suggested that it could see existing workers replaced by ‘cheaper’ ones. It has demanded amendments be made to prevent this.
“It is young Australians who are going to have the longest scarring effect to their employment and their wage-earning capacity and there is an enormous effort by this government through the hiring credit and other matters to try and bring those young Australians back into employment as quickly as possible,” Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said.
While not really addressing the question, he argued that the credit would create new jobs and that “you cannot advertise for someone to receive the hiring credit in a way that would displace an existing employee”.
Porter argued that no policy-specific protections are required because the Fair Work Act generally has age discrimination provisions.
“[This includes] general protections against adverse action such as dismissal, such as a reduction in their hours on the basis of a protected attribute, such as age and an employer who contravenes the general protections could face significant civil penalties,” he said.
In its job search report of Aug this year, the ABS found in 2019 that 600k people had difficulty finding a job. One of the largest "difficulties" was age – pre-virus, about 38k said they were considered "too old" by employer for a job. 9k were "too young"..
— Shane Wright (@swrighteconomy) November 11, 2020
Of course, it remains to be seen whether an employee would be able to prove this fact, or would bother to pursue it. It’s the reason why Labor and the unions are pressing for amendments to be made to the policy, which the Morrison government has rejected.
“This scheme does nothing to protect or support the jobs of workers over the age of 35,” Michele O’Neil, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said, slamming its current form as ‘inadequate’. “By opposing these amendments the Government has made it clear that the aspects of the bill which will risk the jobs, hours and pay of working people are not bugs but features. This legislation is designed to allow businesses to bring in more insecure workers.”
“We have been calling on the Morrison Government for months to put forward a comprehensive plan to create secure jobs through government investment in sectors like early childhood education, construction, tourism and manufacturing – instead we get this.”
It comes as the cornerstone JobKeeper policy tapers off, with the subsidy to be entirely phased out by March. Frydernberg acknowledged to Parliament that employment had ticked up to 6.9% as JobKeeper was reduced.
While both political parties acknowledge its temporary nature, the Morrison government stands accused of not doing enough to minimise that grief during the transition period by the federal opposition. Treasury officials last month confirmed JobMaker may fail to generate 90% of the 450,000 jobs promised.
The federal government, however, defended itself, naming JobMaker alongside its other policies as being successful in getting “Australians back into work”.
But with unemployment forecast by Treasury to hit 8% by Christmas, there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who might soon disagree.
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