The $90 billion JobKeeper scheme has ended. The government hails it as a 'success story', but advocates warn of distressing consequences

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  • The $90 billion JobKeeper scheme ended on Sunday, cutting wage subsidies for some 1.1 million Australians who claimed the payments in early 2021.
  • It was appropriate for the scheme to end and for Australia’s economy to stand on its own, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Monday.
  • But social service advocates and union leaders fear for vulnerable employees, who may lose their jobs as the funding tap is switched off.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The $90 billion JobKeeper scheme has come to an end, leading the federal government to hail Australia’s economic recovery from a pandemic-induced recession, even as social services advocates warn of impending job losses and worsening financial insecurity.

JobKeeper, designed to subsidise employee wages through the public health crisis and industry shutdowns, initially provided $1,500 a fortnight to eligible recipients.

After successive cutbacks, tightened eligibility criteria, and Australia’s emergence from a recession, JobKeeper formally ended on Sunday, severing a financial lifeline to the 1.1 million Australians who still claimed the subsidy through early 2021.

Speaking on “Today” Monday morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was appropriate for the unprecedented scheme to come to an end.

“JobKeeper has been a remarkable success story” which kept Australia from “staring into economic abyss,” Frydenberg said.

Since the doomsday predictions of March 2020, “we’ve seen the economy strengthen, the labour market prove to be enormously resilient, and the unemployment rate fall to 5.8%,” he added.

Keeping the subsidy in place would hamper workforce productivity, Frydenberg said, referencing Treasury modelling which justified JobKeeper’s demise.

But social services advocates claim Australia’s labour market is still fragile, with up to 250,000 jobs now on the line — 100,000 more than the Treasury’s own estimates.

“It’s a really distressing day,” Cassandra Goldie, chief executive officer of the Australian Council of Social Services told “Sunrise” Monday morning.

“I guess many people are waking up this morning not sure what their futures are going to be.”

Those job losses could expose former employees to the “really brutal” JobSeeker unemployment payment, which will also drop to a new standard rate of $44 a day at the end of March, Goldie said.

“We estimate about 3 million people including about a million children being plunged back into poverty this week,” she said.

“We are facing a health pandemic and a poverty pandemic at this point.”

The Federal Government has announced hundreds of millions in post-JobKeeper funding for the aviation and live performance sectors, which it concedes will remain suppressed by international border closures.

But ACTU president Michele O’Neil said eliminating the base JobKeeper scheme is “cruel and counter-productive,” given the lingering economic impacts of the pandemic.

“We need money in the hands of working people so they can spend it,” O’Neil said Sunday.

“This will not only hurt working people but also small businesses many of which are still struggling to recover.”

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