Article by Courtney Gould courtesy of News.com.au
Thousands of pensioners and “grey nomads” could hold the key to unlocking the nation’s workforce crisis, according to a plan backed by mining magnate Gina Rinehart .
Businesses across the country are crying out for workers as the number of jobs on offer approaches 500,000.
Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie wants the government to create a new opt-in scheme to either increase or remove the income-test threshold for pensioners.
“We know that there are many people who are in their 60s who are receiving the pension, who are fit and active and want to work,” she told reporters in Canberra.
Ms Sharkie moved a motion in the House of Representatives on Monday, but is unable to introduce her proposal as a private members bill as it relates to supply.
Instead, she hopes her actions would spark a conversation ahead of the government’s planned Skills Summit next month.
Under current rules, pensioners lose half of every dollar earned over $490 per fortnight.
Just 2.9 per cent of pensions are currently in the workforce, according to statistics from the Department of Social Services.
Ms Sharkie said she wanted the threshold scrapped so that the figure reaches levels seen overseas.
“It’s just not worth it at the moment for an Australian pensioner,” she said.
“New Zealand has a nearly 25 per cent workforce participation rate with their senior citizens.
“There are a lot of highly skilled people who are still up to participate in the workforce but we’re making it impossible for them to do.”
Nationals Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said a recent survey of members suggested up to 20 per cent of pensioners would return to the workforce if they could do so without penalty.
“The biggest barriers, apart from ageism, is the financial disincentives from tax, but also the paperwork that many pensioners have to do to have their age pension assessed and reassessed if they take out work,” he said.
Gina Rinehart backed the plan, which she said would be a “win-win-win-win”.
“This policy would be … good for pensioners and veterans who deserve the right at least as much as all of us to work if we chose without onerous paperwork,” she said.
National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson said she hoped the scheme would entice retired seniors travelling around Australia – or grey nomads – to take up work on farms.
“The good thing about agriculture and grey nomads is that it allows them to work at their own pace,” Ms Simson said.