TREASURER Wayne Swan says a plan to offer employers $1000 to hire people over the age of 50 is designed to stop older Australians being locked out of the workforce.
The Federal Government on Wednesday Apr 18 announced the Jobs Bonus scheme, to come into effect on July 1 at a cost $10 million over four years, as part of its response to the Economic Potential of Senior Australians report.
To be eligible for the $1000 payment employers will need to retain a person over the age of 50 for at least three months. The payments will be limited to 10,000 businesses.
Mr Swan, who left on Wednesday for the G20 meeting in Washington, told ABC radio Australia needed to do more to unlock the "enormous economic potential" of older Australians.
"Too many senior Australians have been locked out of the workforce by discrimination, by stereotypes and so on," Mr Swan said.
"We think it's very important to make sure we unlock that economic potential of so many people who do wish to work.
"So we've accepted their advice (the report's authors) and what we are going to do is to work with the business community to encourage them to hire more mature age Australians.
"You see, the labour force participation rate of mature age Australians is lower here than it is elsewhere in the OECD. We need to lift that up and we need to unlock that enormous potential and that's what the report recommended to us and that's what we're doing."
The Federal Government announced a raft of measures in response to the report, including an extension of its Corporate Champions program, which provides financial support to business that promote mature aged employment.
Speaking in Melbourne, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott provided backhanded support for the plan.
Mr Abbott said the Coalition had taken a similar policy to the 2010 election.
"This of course is catch-up politics from the government," Mr Abbott said.
"They have almost directly lifted from the Coalition one of our policies at the last election."
Under the Coalition policy businesses that employed senior workers for more than six months would have received $3250.
"I just wish that we had had the chance to put this policy effectively in place straight after the last election," Mr Abbott said.
National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill welcomed the scheme, but said it needed to be part of a "wider package" to help older Australians overcome the challenge of gaining employment.
"This payment is a good first step in overcoming the barriers to employment facing older workers," he said.
"We'd like to see greater training and advancement opportunities for older Australians and a refinement of existing age discrimination laws," Mr O'Neill said.
The Federal Government's response to the Economic Potential of Senior Australians report:
- $10m for a new $1000 Jobs Bonus for employers who recruit and retain a mature age job seeker for more than three months.
- $15.6m to extend the successful Corporate Champions program to provide support to employers who wish to promote mature aged employment at their workplace.
- $3.9m to extend the Career Advice service by two years to ensure mature age people have access to free, professional career advice.
- $4.8m to promote lifelong learning by expanding education opportunities by adult and community education providers and community organisations to older Australians.
- Expanding the More Help for Mature Age Workers initiative, to now be called the "Investing in Experience - Skills Recognition and Training program, to allow industries to benefit from improving the skills of their over-50s workforces.