Government considers doubling Work Bonus threshold
Older Australians could be the beneficiaries of a plan to address a shortage of workers.
Federal opposition leader Peter Dutton has called on the government to double the amount that age pensioners can earn before their pension payments are affected.
Speaking with reporters, Mr Dutton said that lifting the Work Bonus amount at which pensioners begin to lose benefits from $300 to $600 could help alleviate the labour shortage facing businesses.
Currently, those receiving the Age Pension can earn up to $180 per fortnight for singles, and up to $320 per fortnight for couples, on top of the Work Bonus amount, before their pension payments are reduced.
“This is about those who want to work and do an extra day or two … and for it not to affect their pension,” Mr Dutton said.
“I really think it’s a policy that the Albanese government should pick up because the economy demands it now.”
Read: Retail body pressures government on Age Pension work rules
Mr Dutton said Treasury had costed the plan at around $112 million annually, and it would be reviewed each year if implemented.
In a rare show of potential bipartisanship, new Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC’s Insiders program that his government was open to the idea of easing the rules, but he had concerns about the cost of the program.
“When it comes to this issue, I’ve had good, productive conversations with National Seniors and others about whether or not we can do something here,” he said.
“The truth is, in a budget which has got that trillion dollars in debt, we’ve got to weigh up all of these ideas and work out where we can get the best bang for buck.
“Because even an idea like this, which appears to be relatively modest, it still comes with a relatively hefty price tag.”
Mr Chalmers said the idea would be on the agenda at Labor’s ‘jobs summit’, set to be held sometime before the October Budget.
Business groups applaud the plan. Innes Willox, chief executive of national employer association the Ai Group, says encouraging older Australians back to work will bring decades of experience back to the economy.
“Tens of thousands of Australians now receiving a pension can potentially make a huge contribution to the workforce with their skills, experience and mentoring,” he says.
“Our policy settings need to move with the times and allowing older Australians to work more is one way of easing the labour pressures on business.”
Employers may say they support older workers returning to work, but are businesses willing to hire them?
EveryAGE Counts campaign director Dr Marlene Krasovitsky welcomes initiatives to break down structural barriers to older people working, but says we also need to break down attitudinal barriers given the prevalence of ageism among employers.
“Recent research by the Australian HR Institute revealed 47 per cent of Australian businesses say they are reluctant to recruit workers ‘over a certain age’,” says Dr Krasovitsky.
“For more than two-thirds of the group admitting to ageism, that ‘certain age’ was over 50. So the chances of an over-65 getting a fair go in a job interview is extremely slight.
“If we want to harness the unquestionable value of over-65s in the workforce, we need to look ageism squarely in the face, admit that it’s a problem, and work hard to break it down.
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