Australia expects job losses as COVID-19 wage support winds down

CANBERRA (XINHUA) – The head of Australia’s Treasury has revealed that it expects people to lose their jobs when the government ends its coronavirus wage subsidy scheme in March.

The AUD90-billion (USD69.7-billion) JobKeeper scheme, which is supporting the employment of 1.3 million Australians, will end on March 28 – one year since it was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Its impending end has been met with anxiety from employers and employees – particularly those in industries that continue to be affected by the pandemic such as tourism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy told a Senate inquiry into Australia’s coronavirus response that people would become unemployed as a result of the end of JobKeeper but the exact number was unclear. “I don’t expect it to be many hundreds of thousands by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

“I don’t expect it to disturb the trajectory of the unemployment rate coming down and more employment being generated over the year.”

Under JobKeeper, businesses affected by the pandemic were initially paid AUD1,500 (USD1,162.9) per fortnight per employee to keep them, with the payments replacing wages for those employees as their hours fell.

Payments have now scaled down to a maximum of AUD1,000 (USD775.3) per employee per fortnight.

The scheme prevented millions of Australians from becoming unemployed at the height of the pandemic.

People wearing face masks walk outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia. PHOTO: AP