Government hope new scheme for older workers will address talent crunch

Work Bonus provides 'untapped market' with 'years of knowledge and skills to offer employers'

Government hope new scheme for older workers will address talent crunch

Tourism businesses across Australia are being urged to tap into older workers as the government launches a new pathway to allow pensioners to continue working in a bid to address talent shortages.

"We encourage tourism businesses to consider employing older workers, and to benefit from their wealth of experience," said Sam Palmer, general manager, visitor economy and client programs at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

According to Austrade, recruiting older candidates is an "effective way to address labour shortages." These workers can also offer the following benefits:

  • They are reliable and flexible.
  • They have a lifetime of experience that businesses can draw on.
  • They provide age diversity in the workplace.

Work Bonus scheme

The call comes as Australia rolls out a Work Bonus scheme to allow workers at Age Pension age and over and get certain payments to continue earning income without reducing their pension.

The program applies to eligible pensioners from December 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023, according to the Department of Social Services.

Passage of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Workforce Incentive) Act 2022 means pensioners over Age Pension age will benefit from an immediate $4,000 increase in the maximum Work Bonus income bank balance – from $7,800 to $11,800.

The original boost was due to be in place until July 2023, but the government extended it for a further six months to the end of 2023.

“Around 51,000 pensioners already participating in Australia’s workforce will benefit from this increase immediately, with the hope that other pensioners will soon take up this opportunity, if they choose to,” said Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth.

"Older workers are an untapped market, having years of knowledge and skills to offer employers. Giving older Australians the choice to engage in the workforce will not only benefit them by ensuring they keep more of their pension, it is also an important step towards addressing Australia's labour shortages."

Austrade agreed that this is an "opportunity for the visitor economy" to also help meet labour shortfalls.

"The government has provided a tangible mechanism to help with labour shortfalls in our visitor economy, especially during peak periods, with the temporary change to the Work Bonus," Palmer said in a statement.

Further action needed

However, the opportunity provided by the Work Bonus scheme in addressing the talent shortage may not be enough, with job vacancies remaining high at the end of 2022, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The retail sector recently registered 49,900 vacancies in November 2022, according to ABS data, as the peak industry body called for "further urgent action" from the government.

"Retail businesses are at the coalface of Australia's economy and our daily lives, yet they can't secure enough staff," said Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

"The government has made great strides in this space, increasing the cap on migration, improving support for women in the workforce, and introducing the Work Bonus for pensioners – but it's clear from today's data that further work is urgently needed."

Actions sought out by the ARA include:

  • further improvements to childcare, to improve workforce participation and financial security for women
  • national consistency around the minimum working age
  • continued streamlining of immigration applications and removal of red tape
  • further supporting the long term unemployed, ensuring access to sustained work.

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