Seize the day: back to work incentives in Queensland suffer from lack of awareness

Hayley Lock, Partner Tax
Hayley Lock, Partner Tax

In less than a year’s time, the Gold Coast will be enjoying the world’s attention as host of the Commonwealth Games. It is anticipated that this will generate sizeable economic growth and jobs for the area.

But the whole of South-East Queensland – stretching from Sunshine Coast in the north down to Brisbane and Toowoomba down to the Gold Coast – should be aware of a smaller but nonetheless significant opportunity to boost employment.

The state government’s Back to Work scheme, previously restricted to the unemployment black-spots of regional Queensland, has, since July 1, been extended to the relatively more prosperous – but still far from buoyant – south-east section of this vast state.

This employment incentive scheme is generous – businesses can get $15,000 back from the government when recruiting a worker who has been unemployed for at least one year, and $20,000 for a young person aged up to 24. For employers in Brisbane and SE Queensland the scheme lasts until 30 June 2018.

In regional Queensland, where the scheme has been running since July 2016, employers only have until 31 October to hire young people and claim up to $20,000. Employers in regional Queensland can also get up to $15,000 where the hired individual has been unemployed for at least 1 year. This part of the scheme remains available until 30 June 2018.

Businesses spanning the entire state have a limit of ten workers hired under the scheme – five in SE Queensland and another five in the regions, meaning they could potentially save up to $200,000. This is not to be sniffed at.

The state government has allocated $150m to regional Queensland and $27.5m in Brisbane and SE Queensland, for its Back to Work scheme, which follows similar moves made in recent years by other states.

Queensland was relatively slow off the mark but the scheme is more targeted than other states’ offerings – many of which have now tailed off – and will share the payroll rebate around more evenly between large and small enterprises. But, in common with other states it has suffered from a lack of visibility and awareness among businesses.

We urge employers in the sunshine state to look carefully at the scheme. These amounts paid by the government represent significant wage savings for many roles.

It is not as if the job-seekers are not there. After all, according to the latest KPMG Quarterly Economic Outlook, Queensland registered 0 percent growth rate in Q1 2017 compared to previous quarter, and had the second highest rate of unemployment at 6.4 percent – and third highest youth unemployment rate (14.1 percent).

Wage growth has also remained sluggish. Wage inflation in Queensland was the third lowest of all the states at 1.9 percent, although inter-state migration from people in NSW and Victoria looking to escape high house prices in the south will generate income here.

So the incentive is there to make dent in Queensland’s stubbornly high unemployment figures and give the state a real boost. We can’t just rely on a one-off sugar hit from the world’s athletes to come to our rescue.

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