Hundreds of thousands of Australians in danger of losing their jobs are set to receive $1,500 a fortnight as part of government’s ‘job-keeper allowance’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asked businesses to hold fire on any further shutdowns or job cuts ahead of a third stimulus package to be announced in the next few days.
The package is expected to include a $1500 a fortnight ‘job keeper’ allowance for those whose employers go into ‘hibernation’ for the next six months, Seven News reported on Sunday night.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asked businesses to hold fire on any further shutdowns or job cuts ahead of a third stimulus package to be announced in the next few days
The government has so far announced two stimulus packages worth more than $80 billion aimed at trying to shield business and workers from the impact of coronavirus.
‘The next stage … will be even bigger than anything you have so far seen,’ Mr Morrison said on Sunday.
‘It is part of the hibernation strategy of ensuring that we keep people connected with their businesses and with their jobs, so on the other side of this Australia can bounce back stronger.’
As well as the wage subsidy, there is also expected to be an easing of restrictions on claiming benefits, and rental assistance for both business and individuals.
It comes at a time when economists are predicting a jump in the unemployment rate, possibly as high as 17 per cent.
The government has to date resisted the idea of a wage subsidy similar to the UK’s, which would fund 80 per cent of the wage bill of a business so it can keep its workers on the payroll rather than having them join a lengthening dole queue.
Mr Morrison said it wasn’t a question of just ‘cutting and pasting’ what other countries were doing and that the government had been working to find a scheme to fit with Australia’s system.
He asked businesses to hold off on any further decisions until they see the measures the government will be announcing in the next few days.
‘We will be ensuring also that those who have already gone into this very devastating situation, where they have had to stand down workers, that any measures that we’re announcing will be taking them on as well,’ he said.
Labor’s industrial relation’s spokesman Tony Burke said a wage subsidy needed to be implemented urgently.
‘It has to be enough of a subsidy to give a real incentive to employers to keep people in their jobs,’ he said in Sydney.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said having doubled the level of income support under the JobSeeker payment, the government was also going to ease restrictions in terms of partner income.
This would ensure that those with partners who are seeking support would not be negatively affected.
Thousands of Australians have lost their job amid the coronavirus crisis (pictured: people queuing outside Centrelink in Gold Coast)
The current partner income test kicks in once a partner earns more than $48,000.
Several major companies including Qantas, Virgin Australia and Myer, and smaller companies – particularly in the hospitality and retail industries – have already stood down tens of thousands of workers.
Former ANZ chief economist Warren Hogan said the crisis had rapidly become an employment problem.
‘I think a wage subsidy is critical at this juncture … because we have such a significant amount of jobs losses,’ Mr Hogan told Sky News.
Treasury had estimated the impact of the coronavirus would see an additional one million people out of work, but already firms are shedding or have stood down between 60 to 90 per cent of their staff.
‘I think very quickly we can talk about over a million jobs being lost. It looks like we are going to get through that in very short order,’ Mr Hogan said.
‘I think by the time we get to Easter we are going to probably see about 1.5 to 1.8 million job losses due to stand downs.
That would see the unemployment rate soar from 5.1 per cent as of February to somewhere above, between 15 and 17 per cent.’