Uncertainty concerns linger post-JobKeeper

·2-min read

While the number of businesses relying on JobKeeper continues to decline sharply, over one million people are still registered for the wage subsidy that is set to end in March.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says Australia's labour market is undergoing a "remarkable recovery".

"We are seeing thousands and thousands of our fellow Australians graduate off JobKeeper," he told parliament on Monday.

But he concedes sectors like tourism, aviation and international education are still struggling and says he is still considering support measures once the pandemic-inspired scheme ends.

Unions are calling on the treasurer to give a solid commitment to provide support, rather leaving people living in uncertainty.

Mr Frydenberg released tax office figures showing around 520,000 firms and 2.13 million employees have left JobKeeper since the end of September.

As of December, 1.54 million people were supported by the program, down from 3.6 million recorded in the month of September.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said there needs to be a sense of realism about what's happening in the economy.

"If there are parts of the economy where there is no way you could describe it as being back to normal, then to remove JobKeeper as planned ... is going to see a whole lot of businesses go off the cliff and a whole lot of people lose their jobs," he told reporters on Monday.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil said while the government teases potential support for the 1.5 million workers still in JobKeeper, these people continue to live with uncertainty.

"The government must commit to ongoing support to businesses that are continuing to suffer a proven serious drop in turnover and extend JobKeeper to cover those affected by snap lockdowns," Ms O'Neil said in a statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the pandemic highlighted a vulnerability in the tertiary education sector's business model and he expects universities to adapt like any other business.

"I think it's always time for universities to consider their economic model," he told News Corp.

"Other businesses are doing that, so why wouldn't they?"

Australian universities say they lost $1.8 billion last year and are on track for a further $2 billion loss this year as a result of border closures that have locked out overseas students.

Mr Morrison wants universities to focus on collaborating with industry and establishing commercial partnerships to tackle the "big challenges" facing Australia, including on vaccines, energy and digital technologies.

Mr Frydenberg said 785,000 jobs had been created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent in December.

Economists expect new jobs figures on Thursday will show the jobless rate has fallen even further to 6.5 per cent.