On Tuesday 11 May, the 2021-2022 Federal Budget will be handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Every budget is important because it tells us what the government has planned for the year; however, this year’s ‘post-pandemic’ Federal Budget is arguably more important because it will outline the Government’s economic plan to help Australia emerge from the impacts of a COVID-affected 2020.
While we don’t know exactly what the Treasurer will announce when it comes to stimulus for the skills and training sector, some potential policy shifts are starting to emerge. Most significantly, the Treasurer has highlighted that the government intends to prioritise job creation in this year’s Budget.
For employers, job hunters and apprentices you might be wondering what this will mean for you in the coming year so we will break that down for you.
Under the government’s current JobMaker policy, the hiring credit offers a $200-a-week subsidy for any employer who takes on a new hire under the age of 29. Similarly, the subsidy provides $100 a week for new employees aged between 30 and 35.
It’s predicted that the government will introduce further targeted sector incentives to assist areas still affected by COVID. This could mean an adjustment of the current JobMaker scheme to further improve take-up. Frydenberg has hinted there will be a ‘tweak’ made to the current JobMaker scheme in the May 11 Budget.
For employers, a change in the eligibility criteria to JobMaker could make it easier to hire an employee who doesn’t fit the current parameters of the policy (e.g. someone older than 35 or necessary pre-requisite time spent on JobSeeker).
In February 2021, the youth unemployment rate was 12.9 per cent, considerably higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent. During the height of COVID, the government committed $500 million (to be matched by states and territories) to provide school-leavers and job seekers with the opportunity to upskill or reskill in a career path that would be critical to Australia’s economic recovery.
In what was possibly his last major speech before the Budget is handed down on May 11, Frydenberg indicated that he wants to do more to drive the unemployment rate down to pre-pandemic levels – closer to 5.1 per cent. This desire will likely be reflected in the upcoming Budget’s focus on creating jobs, without any ‘sharp pivots towards austerity’.
For job hunters, this means that while the COVID-19 JobSeeker supplement has been cut and JobKeeper is retired, there could be more targeted stimulus packages to assist those looking for work.
In October 2020, the government introduced a $1 billion JobTrainer Fund, extending the wage subsidy to help keep apprentices and trainees in work despite the nation-wide lockdowns. An additional $1.2 billion extension in March 2021 means that at least 70,000 new apprentices and trainees are expected to be subsidised under a 12-month extension of the package. The early success of the JobTrainer scheme puts in front and centre for the upcoming Budget.
For apprentices and trainees, the recent extension of the JobTrainer policy is a good indication that the government intends to continue its focus on investing in skilled careers. In fact, Frydenberg has already highlighted that ‘skills’ will be a primary focus for a range of reforms and investments to boost productivity and set up Australia’s post-pandemic future.