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100,000 Aussies to lose jobs in March: Treasury

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
Treasury officials expect JobKeeper's conclusion will axe 100,000 jobs. (Source: Getty)
Treasury officials expect JobKeeper's conclusion will axe 100,000 jobs. (Source: Getty)

Roughly 100,000 Aussies currently receiving JobKeeper but working zero or very few hours will be at risk of losing their jobs entirely when the wage subsidy program winds down at the end of March, a Treasury official has said.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, which has been extended twice but at reduced payments, will conclude on 28 March.

Speaking to a Senate committee on COVID-19 on Thursday, Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy said the introduction of the JobKeeper ‘tiers’ saw 2 million Aussies come off the scheme and retain their jobs – but said that the next move could result in lost jobs.

“The next move will be different because we're not moving to a lower level; it's ending,” he told the committee.

“I'd expect it will mean there's some peoples' employment that won't be present and job losses that would come of that.”

When asked to put a figure on how many jobs would be lost at the end of the scheme, Kennedy said there would be a “small proportion” of the 1.3 million people on JobSeeker that would be working “zero or low hours”.

“That could be of the order of 100,000 people, which was roughly the number of people at the end of JobKeeper 1 … who were on zero or low hours and who moved to other employment [or] moved away from those firms,” he said.

Kennedy noted that the fall-out should be mitigated by the general recovery of the economy and the labour market, noting that he doesn’t expect the downward trajectory of the unemployment rate to be disturbed as a result of JobKeeper’s conclusion.

“The fact is that many businesses are—to use the language that is often used with me—well cashed-up and able to invest, and if they have the confidence they will invest,” he said.

However, industries that have been hit particularly hard, such as the aviation sector will still need ongoing support, he added.

But he said he was “quietly confident” that the broader economy’s recovery was “locked in”.

Treasury secretary hints at support for JobSeeker rate rise

When asked by the committee chair Senator Katy Gallagher whether he supported a permanent increase to the JobSeeker rate of roughly $40 a day, Kennedy refused to answer the question directly, but said he had advised the Government of his views.

“I think it's a reasonable courtesy for me to allow the government to make its view on what that is and for me to advise them through the appropriate cabinet processes,” he said.

The income support payment’s rate was less about supporting the economy, and more about the inherent sufficiency of the payment itself, Kennedy indicated.

“The point I would make about JobSeeker in this next phase—it's somewhat related to JobKeeper—is that it's much less about its macroeconomic circumstances now, and it's much more about the decision that the Government needs to make in light of the adequacy of the payment, how it intersects with incentives to work. And I think that's all I'd say on that at this stage.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faces opposition from business and social services groups as well as RBA Governor Philip Lowe on this issue, has hinted several times that he is considering the matter.

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