By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Creating jobs is the focus of Australia’s annual budget set to be unveiled on Tuesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, as Canberra seeks to revive an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia is grappling with its first recession in three decades, with unemployment rising to a 22-year high in July after authorities imposed lockdown measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The government has pledged A$314 billion ($225.8 billion) of fiscal stimulus to soften the economic blow, and Frydenberg said the budget will include sweeteners aimed at lowering unemployment.
“I will lay out our economic recovery plan to rebuild the Australian economy,” Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.
“It’s all about helping those who are out of a job get into a job. It’s all about helping those that are in work, stay in work.”
Australia’s central bank left its cash rate at a record low of 0.25% on Tuesday, as expected, and said it continues to consider how additional easing could support jobs as the economy reopens.
Local media reported Australia plans to accelerate income tax cuts to come into force in 2022.
While declining to confirm the tax cut plans, the government said the budget will include a commitment to spend A$1.2 billion to pay 50% of the wages of 100,000 new apprentices or trainees over the next 12 months.
“This new wage subsidy gives businesses certainty to hire and provides a career path,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement.
Only those under 35 will be eligible for the scheme as Australia targets soaring youth unemployment.
Labour data in September showed the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds was hovering near 20%, more than three times the national tally.
Australia on Monday said it will fast track infrastructure projects worth some A$7.5 billion to support the economy.
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