Labor aims to smooth bumpy road off income support

The government will put an extra $41m into measures training workers for the jobs of the future.

The government will put an extra $41m into measures training workers for the jobs of the future. Photo: Unsplash

People moving off income support payments and into the workforce will soon be able to use concession cards and access other benefits for nearly six months.

The adjustment to the income support system, one of nine new measures fleshed out in Labor’s long-awaited employment white paper, is expected to give people the confidence to pursue job opportunities.

Pensioners will also be able to continue to work more without losing so much of their payment, the government has announced, along with a new economic partnership with First Nations community-controlled organisations.

Under the changes to the income support system, what’s known as the employment income ‘nil rate period’ has been doubled to almost six months.

This will keep people connected to the income support system for longer – essentially allowing them to access things like childcare subsidies and cheaper healthcare and transport.

In the event the new job doesn’t work out, recipients will also be able to move back onto payments smoothly without having to reapply.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said this was an anxiety many faced, particularly when looking for short-term, casual and gig economy work.

“We hope it will result in more people getting back into work and staying in jobs for longer, without the fear that the safety net won’t be there if they need it again,” she said.

The new system will kick in mid-next year, if legislated, and cost $42.8 million over three years.

The white paper, the product of 12 months of work following last year’s jobs and skills summit, also spells out some high-level principles to reform the nation’s employment services system.

This is the network of government-funded organisations supporting people who are looking for work.

The system was found to be “highly transactional and poorly tailored” according to those consulted throughout the white paper design.

Principles include a system that views services as an investment to unlock potential and one that protects the dignity and rights of individuals.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke wanted to design a system that was tailored to the needs of the most disadvantaged people seeking work.

“If we do that we don’t just help employers fill gaps with workers they’re desperately looking for, but we change people’s lives,” the minister said.

The white paper has been released amid a backdrop of extremely low unemployment and easing but ongoing labour shortages.

The idea is to provide a longer-term vision for the labour market that responds to a few key economic megatrends

This includes an ageing population, the expansion of digital technologies, the need to respond to climate change, and rising geopolitical tensions.

At the heart of the government’s ambition is embedding a new definition of full employment – that everyone who wants a job should be able to find one without searching for too long.


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