Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced the measures to secure Australia’s recovery in his 2021/22 budget will generate a quarter of a million jobs over the next two years to drive growth and rebuild the economy.

“This budget will help to create more than 250,000 jobs by the end of 2022/23,” Frydenberg said in his federal budget address last night.

“This budget secures the recovery and sets Australia up for the future: tax cuts to put more money in people’s pockets; business incentives to unleash a further wave of investment; new apprenticeships and training places to get more Australians into work; a $110 billion infrastructure pipeline to build our nation’s future; and record funding to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on.

“Jobs are coming back. The economy is coming back. Australia is coming back. And this budget will ensure we come back even stronger, securing Australia’s recovery.”

Under the plan, the unemployment rate is forecast to fall below 5 per cent by late 2022.

“Ahead of any major advanced economy, Australia has seen employment go above its pre-pandemic levels. At 5.6 per cent, unemployment today is lower than when we came to government,” Frydenberg said.

The COVID-19 recession will see deficit reach $161 billion this year, falling to $57 billion in 2024/25. This year’s deficit is $52.7 billion lower than was expected just over six months ago in last year’s budget.

David George, Managing Director WA, VIC & ACT at PageGroup said: “It’s great to see the government commit more than $4 billion over the forward estimates in funding for jobs and skills, and employment and skills reform. These measures will help maintain the high business confidence achieved in April.

“Australia’s rebound from the pandemic could result in becoming the leading hub for exceptional and high potential talent across many industries, as more people from overseas see our country as an attractive place for careers and work opportunities, and also for business.”

According to Sharmini Wainwright, Senior Managing Director NSW & QLD at PageGroup, while more childcare funding is a step in the right direction, the latest measure only impacts a small audience who meet the definition – applicable only to second and subsequent children, of which both must be aged 5 or under. Therefore, a more progressive approach is required if its aim is to encourage more women to return to work.

“For many female professionals, particularly those not eligible for the subsidy, it can sometimes have a bearing on how many working days they can commit to make it worth it. For others on the edge of the salary eligibility factor, it can be a reason not to go for a promotion,” Wainwright explained.

Callam Pickering, APAC Economist at Indeed highlighted one area of concern for recruitment will be the ongoing closure of Australian borders and its impact on skilled and unskilled migration.

“There is a real risk that skill shortages develop or become exacerbated by an inability to tap global talent markets. And with university budgets tightening, we may not be in a great place to address that domestically in the near-term,” Pickering told Michael Page Australia.

However, the budget’s $96 billion in new spending – major areas include aged care, infrastructure and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – will support strong growth in healthcare and a range of construction-type occupations. 

“By prioritising economic repair over budget repair, the federal government has potentially laid the foundations for Australia’s strongest economic environment since before the global financial crisis,” Pickering said.

He noted the main surprise in this year’s budget was simply the sheer number of new initiatives or increased spending promises.

“With the economy recovering faster than anticipated, including the jobs market, I’d expected a bit more budget repair and a bit more of a pullback on spending promises,” he revealed.

“Instead, we got a budget that looked like an election-year budget. A lot of new spending promises, with initiatives directed at areas where the federal government might feel vulnerable.”

Australia’s infrastructure

The Morrison government’s economic plan aims to capitalise on the opportunities that will exist on the other side of the pandemic, securing Australia as a dynamic and competitive economy.

The 10-year $110 billion investment pipeline, which already supports 100,000 jobs across the country, was given an additional $15.2 billion commitment for projects that benefit most states and territories, and will support a further 30,000 jobs:

  • the North‑South Corridor in South Australia
  • the Great Western Highway and Newcastle airport in New South Wales
  • the new Melbourne Intermodal Terminal in Victoria 
  • the Bruce Highway in Queensland
  • METRONET in Western Australia
  • highway upgrades in the Northern Territory
  • Light Rail Stage 2A in the Australian Capital Territory and
  • Midland Highway upgrades in Tasmania.

“And through the Building Better Regions Fund, we will support a further $250 million of regional community infrastructure projects, creating more jobs,” Frydenberg announced.

Record investment into skills and training

The government will “equip Australians with the skills they need to get a job today and tomorrow” by doubling its commitment to the JobTrainer Fund to support more than 450,000 new training places to upskill job seekers and young people.

At a cost of $2.7 billion, it will create more than 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships.

This builds on the 100,000 new apprentices that were helped into a job in the first stage of the program.

Frydenberg announced measures to help more women break into non‑traditional trades, with training support for 5,000 places. In addition, 2,700 places in Indigenous girls’ academies to help them finish school and enter the workforce, and more STEM scholarships for women, in partnership with industry.

Childcare support to keep more women in the workplace

Frydenberg highlighted childcare as an important driver of higher workforce participation and women’s economic security. A targeted $1.7 billion investment was made into childcare to increase its affordability for low and middle‑income families.

“250,000 families will be better off by an average of $2,200 each year giving more parents, especially women, the choice to take on extra work,” he said.

Australia’s digital economy and cybersecurity

The budget will also see $1.2 billion invested into Australia’s Digital Economy Strategy.

“Digital infrastructure and digital skills will be critical for the competitiveness of Australia’s economy, creating massive opportunities for growth and jobs,” Frydenberg said last night.

“Establishing a new national network of Artificial Intelligence Centres to drive business adoption of these new technologies. Expanding our cybersecurity innovation fund to train the next generation of cybersecurity experts. And undertaking a digital skills cadetship trial, which combines workplace and vocational training.”

Modern manufacturing key to driving future jobs

In last year’s budget, the government invested $1.5 billion in a Modern Manufacturing Strategy to ensure international competitiveness and to create more jobs across six priority areas, including medical products and clean energy.

The MMS was backed with an additional $2 billion in R&D tax incentives.

In order to encourage more innovation commercialised in Australia, Frydenberg launched a new ‘patent box’ starting on 1 July 2022. The patent box will apply to the medical and biotech sectors; government will consult on expanding it to the clean energy sector.

Deregulation measures

$120 million has been committed to reducing the burden on employers when it comes to regulating with the government, particularly around modern awards. Investment into regulation technology aims to streamline the process of complying with award pay and conditions, making it easier to create new jobs.

Skilled migration

$550 million will be spent over the next four years to make it easier for businesses to attract talent from overseas. Changes to tax rules will encourage employee share schemes and simplified tax residency rules for individuals.

“We must seize this opportunity and capitalise on the strength of our health and economic response to this crisis,” Frydenberg said.

“While other countries struggle to contain the virus and are moving to increase taxes, our focus is on driving an even stronger recovery and attracting the best and brightest to help set Australia up for the future.”

The government revealed the international border restrictions were likely to remain in place until mid-2022.

Health and aged care

This budget will provide $698.3 million over five years from 2020/21 as part of the $17.7 billion whole-of-government response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, to improve safety, quality, and the availability of aged care services.

In order to grow and upskill the workforce, an additional 33,800 subsidised vocational education and training places will be available to existing aged care workers and people interested in working in the sector.

Mental health services will be boosted by an extra $2.3 billion, with the bulk of funding going to treatment centres and suicide prevention efforts. Almost $249 million is being promised to help create digital mental health services, allowing counselling and support online, while $202 million is for training nurses and psychologists working in mental health.

Frydenberg also announced $13.2 billion over four years to meet the needs of Australians with disability. He said as the NDIS reaches maturity, the government’s focus is on ensuring its stability. In total, funding for the NDIS is expected to reach $122 billion in the next four years.

The 2021/22 budget also made record commitments on essential services, women’s safety, and made tax cuts for low and middle-income earners.

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