A GOVERNMENT department is targeting a new breed of welfare recipients in Australia — baby boomers who “effectively retire” on unemployment benefits.
According to The Australian, unemployment is rising five times faster for Australians in their 50s than for those in their 20s. The number of over-55s on the dole has jumped 9 per cent in one year.
Currently job seekers aged over 55 do not have to search for full-time work. They can still get their benefits if they do 15 hours per week of voluntary work, paid work or a combination of the two.
There is now a proposal to change the requirements so that job seekers under 60 years old will have to search for full time work, in line with other younger unemployed people.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry on the proposed changes, the Employment Department said the criteria was effectively allowing people over 55 to retire on the dole, while only having to do a small amount of voluntary or paid work.
“Given the ageing workforce and the fact that most people aged 55 have many potentially productive years ahead of them, it is no longer acceptable for 55-59 year old job seekers to effectively retire on Newstart while undertaking a bit of voluntary or part-time work.” it said.
To put it in context, most of the 45,000 jobseekers aged between 55-59 on Newstart are looking for full-time work. About 6,000 of those are currently receiving the dole by volunteering/working 15 hours a week.
Ian Yates says the government department submission on employment reforms is “appalling”. Source: News Limited
The strong words have been criticised by COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates, who said he was “appalled”. The organisation represents the rights of older Australians.
“We don’t oppose the measures but throwing gratuitous insults against older people is appalling,” Mr Yates said.
He said the department should be focusing on how to improve employment outcomes for older workers, not maligning them.
“Older workers do suffer from age discrimination,” he said.
“Some apply for hundreds of jobs but don’t get an interview.”
This has been acknowledged through the government’s Restart wage subsidy scheme, that gives employers $10,000 over two years if they hire a worker aged 50 or older, who has been out of work for at least six months. So far 384 Australians have been able to get work through this scheme.
Mr Yates said as economic conditions got tighter, it was not a surprise that unemployment was growing among older people. He said there should be more focus on training and retraining these workers as soon as they became unemployed, instead of waiting for them to become demoralised and deskilled over time.
Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has also blasted the department’s “completely wrong” choice of language.
“The implication that they are willing to hang around on Newstart while doing a bit of volunteer work as a preferred position is completely wrong,” Ms Ryan told The Australian.
“People in that age group, more than young people, are desperately seeking employment — often they have mortgages and are still rearing kids.’’
The Newstart allowance is currently $258 a week, which is $130 less than the Age Pension.
Under the draft legislation, over-55s will have to apply for full-time jobs, in line with younger jobseekers, from January 1. The Senate committee is due to report back on November 24.
WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS?
• According to the latest social security data quoted by The Australian, the number of over-50s out of work for more than a year rose by 16 per cent to 49,985 in the 12 months to September
• The total number of over-50s on the dole rose by 9 per cent to79,163
• In comparison, total unemployment among 21-29-year-old rose 1.7 per cent to 112,130
• This includes 67,139 who have been on the dole more than a year — an 11 per cent jump