Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Thursday, 25 March 2021
Avani Dias: Let's hear from the person in charge. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has spoken to me just before the show. Thanks so much for joining us.
Simon Birmingham: Always good to be back on Hack. Thanks so much, Avani.
Avani Dias: Just so we know that some employment figures are bouncing back to what they were like before the pandemic, but that's not really the case when it comes to youth unemployment. Why do you think that is?
Simon Birmingham: Overall, employment levels are back up above the levels that they were at in March of last year. And so across the economy, that's really great. But indeed, we're not quite there in relation to young Australians. Last month's jobs data had some positive news there. There were 88,000 new jobs created across the economy and 40 per cent of those went to young people. So hopefully we will see in future months a bit more of a catch up. But we acknowledge the gap is there and that is consistent with past recessions and past economic downturns. And we said this last year when we, particularly in the budget, announced the new JobMaker hiring credit and other policies targeting youth unemployment. Because we've seen in all the evidence is in past recessions that when the economy recovers, unfortunately, young people are sometimes the last to secure jobs again. And that's why we've really tried to focus and will continue to focus policies on getting young Australians back into work and providing them with training and other opportunities to do so, too.
Avani Dias: Let's go to that JobMaker scheme that you mentioned. It's where you pay employers 200 dollars a week for people under 35 who they've hired for new jobs. Now, you were saying that by this stage of the programme, there should be about 10,000 young people with jobs through that programme, but only 609 people have received jobs through JobMaker. What's going wrong there?
Simon Birmingham: It's disappointing in terms of the rate of take up so far. Now, some of that will be the fact that the labour market and employment conditions have improved faster than we thought. So demand for the programme may be a little less than anticipated. Some of it is perhaps that if you are currently a business receiving JobKeeper or a person receiving JobKeeper, you're ineligible for the hiring credit. So obviously, at the end of this month, when we transition to that next new stage, JobMaker will start to play a more important part in supporting the employment of people than perhaps it does at present while JobKeeper is still going.
Avani Dias: Minister, I do want to know from you, because, you know, I talk to young people every day who are telling me that they're struggling. They either, you know, don't see uni as the best option anymore because thousands of jobs have been lost in that sphere. So they're not sure if they're going to get a great education by going there. They're not sure about Tafe. You know, obviously, jobs are hard to come by at the moment because of the pandemic. And what we're talking about, if you were finishing school this year, would you feel like you would have the opportunities to actually make a living as a young Australian?
Simon Birmingham: Yes, but I can absolutely understand the uncertainties that exist. You know, I finished school basically at the time of the 1990s recession, so I remember the fact that there was great uncertainty in the economy back then and great uncertainty about how easy it would be to get a job or otherwise. At that time that I was a school leaver and looking at going on to uni and debating what the future would look like. And so I well and truly understand this is a time of enormous uncertainty. But I think people should have confidence, you know before this pandemic, Australia had recorded 29 years of consecutive economic growth. Coming out of this pandemic our economy has grown faster and recovered faster than most other comparable economies around the world.
Avani Dias: I do understand that, Minister. And I do want to jump in there because the issue is, you know, to keep that economy growing, we need more people in work, in jobs and JobKeeper. The programme that you've set up to support people is ending next week. That's going to be leading to an estimated 150,000 people looking for work after that situation, according to a lot of research. Would you consider a JobKeeper specific for young people, considering we know that they are much harder hit by what's going on?
Simon Birmingham: Well, JobKeeper was there to keep people in jobs. Now, you're right. The Treasury estimates are that potentially somewhere between 100 and 150,000 people may find that they lose their jobs at the cessation of JobKeeper. But an important counterpoint to that is that Treasury also advised that before the pandemic, in the normal operation of the economy, around 400,000 people shift in and out of jobs every month in Australia. And so they actually don't see the expected numbers in relation to the end of JobKeeper as being out of the ordinary in terms of the movement of people in and out of jobs in the country. The challenge is to make sure that we are creating new jobs each and every month to keep ensuring that those who might be leaving one job have an opportunity to secure a new job elsewhere. And so that is firmly where our focus is.
Avani Dias: Right. Simon Birmingham, appreciate you coming on Hack.