As many as 150,000 jobs may be at risk in Australia following the ending of its JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme on March 28, according to estimates by the Treasury. The scheme, launched in March 2020 to address ballooning unemployment during the pandemic, was extended twice and supported about 1.1 million workers at last count, down from a peak of 3.8 million—nearly a third of the entire Australian workforce—in mid-2020.
The government has not projected which sectors are likely to be most affected, but most of the job losses will probably come from travel and tourism-reliant industries such as hospitality, with F&B and retail also hit. Many companies in these industries ended up relying heavily on JobKeeper during 2020 and may not be able to recover now that government support has ended.
Treasury secretary Dr Steven Kennedy said last week that while the economy is recovering now that the pandemic is largely under control across the country, full recovery will take some time. "We are continuing to closely monitor the situation in different sectors and do expect that the end of the JobKeeper program will lead to some businesses closing and jobs being lost," he said of the job loss estimates.
The unemployment rate in Australia was 5.8 percent as of February 2021 and the workforce participation rate was 66.1 percent, significantly better than initial forecasts and almost back to pre-COVID levels. Employment for women in particular increased. However, youth employment still remains low.