Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill 2020

9 November 2020

I have spent some time listening to speeches in this place and the other place on this bill, the Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill 2020. I appreciate the concerns that have been raised and the many difficulties that people are experiencing in this COVID recession. I also recognise the struggle that older workers face in trying to secure employment in your 50s and 60s, and the sense that employers just aren't willing to give you a chance. I recognise the stress for unemployed workers with young families, who aren't sure if they will be able to make ends meet or if they'll be able to meet the next mortgage payment. I appreciate the worry and despair that people are feeling, and how dispirited they must feel, particularly when they send off dozens of job applications and do not receive a single response. So I get why people want to remove the age rules for this JobMaker program and why they want to provide more support for unemployed workers. I know they have the best of intentions, and I would enthusiastically support a bill that permanently raised the JobKeeper rate and that expanded coverage to all unemployed workers or that provided genuine employment support services.

But I also know we have a particular problem with youth unemployment in this country. It's not a new problem. For decades now, unemployment rates for young people, if you look at the stats, are double—in fact, often triple—those for other workers. The underemployment figures are even worse. And that was before COVID struck. Which workers have been hardest hit by the COVID recession? Typically, it's those who work in shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels. It is people who are already in precarious jobs, working in the gig economy, and casuals who depend on shiftwork to get by. In other words, the workers who have been hardest hit by COVID are young people who are already struggling. For middle-aged workers, the unemployment rate is about five per cent. For young workers, the rate is a staggering 17 per cent—17 per cent. We must do something about this.

Research shows that young people who become unemployed in a recession struggle for years or decades afterwards. They struggle to find jobs. Those who do find jobs earn less, and then they are more likely to lose their jobs than other workers. The effect on a young person is profound. It damages their career prospects, their earnings, their ability to buy a home and their ability to raise a family. For them, it's a long-term obstacle to living the lives they want to lead. So I support investing in those young people and trying to do something that could help deal with youth unemployment in the recession.

JobMaker might not do much to create economic recovery; that's not its purpose. But I believe it can help once the recovery begins. Employers, especially small businesses, are always reluctant to take on staff. You're not just paying someone to do a job for you; you're also taking on responsibility for their livelihoods—responsibility for them being able to make mortgage payments, put food on the table and pay school fees. Sometimes the weight of that burden is so great that you put off hiring someone new until you're absolutely sure the demand is there. The JobMaker credit will help those employers who see their businesses growing and know they need someone. It will help to overcome their reluctance and create jobs today that would not otherwise be there. That will give young workers a chance—a chance at a job, a chance to prove themselves, a chance to escape the long-term damage the recession has done to their lives.

Centre Alliance will be supporting this bill, and I hope that many small businesses in my home state of South Australia will take advantage of it and give a young worker a chance.

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