On May 11 2021, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down Australia’s 2021-22 Federal Budget, with an immediate focus on addressing a range of social and economic challenges to support the country’s recovery from COVID-19. The budget addresses issues in aged care, mental health, childcare, training and skilling, community resilience and the recurrent budget priorities of infrastructure and defence.
Beyond these measures, our CEO Murray Vitlich acknowledges the critical need for Australia to continue to effectively manage COVID-19 and to quickly regain the country’s economic growth.
“The total cost of the government’s COVID-19 economic support package is now nearly $300 billion, and the Budget’s underlying 2020-21 cash balance is expected to be $161 billion in deficit,” Murray explains. “So growing the Australian economy is key to both budget restoration and funding the structural expenditure programs that the community needs and values.”
Supporting major infrastructure projects and creating construction sector jobs remains integral to Australia’s economic growth and recovery. Here, we review some of the budget initiatives that are likely to shape these sectors in 2021 and beyond.
“As was the case with last year’s Federal Budget, it’s clear that infrastructure is again expected to play a significant role in stimulating economic activity,” Murray says. “Therefore, the 2021-22 Federal Budget will continue to bring long-term benefits for our customers across key markets.”
Building on an existing $110 billion infrastructure pipeline, the federal government has committed a further $15.2 billion to support the delivery of major transport infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.
Another $1 billion will go to supporting local road infrastructure projects, while Australia’s Building Better Regions Fund will receive a $250 million boost to drive regional community infrastructure projects and to support local job creation.
The federal Road Safety Program will also receive an additional $1 billion in funding to improve road safety outcomes and support the creation of 4,500 jobs.
The construction industry remains a significant driver of economic activity in Australia, contributing 9% of GDP and employing a workforce of roughly 1,153,900 people. Within this sector, residential construction also plays a vital role in job creation and contributes 5% of Australia’s GDP.
In handing down the recent budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expressed Australia’s continued commitment to enabling home ownership and creating construction jobs. The HomeBuilder first homebuyer program has been extended by 12 months to build confidence in the residential construction sector and create new job opportunities for tradespeople and others across the industry.
Jobs and training
As part of the federal government’s efforts to reduce unemployment, the budget includes a multi-billion dollar commitment to create additional vocational education opportunities, which is expected to support training and retraining for those re-entering the workforce.
The government will invest $2.7 billion over four years to extend the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements scheme, allowing employers to claim wage subsidies of up to 50% for new apprentices and trainees during their first year. This is expected to create more than 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships.
The Local Jobs Program will also expand, with an additional $213.5 million in funding. The program is designed to address the changing skill requirements in many jobs, with a focus on reskilling, upskilling and creating new employment pathways.
Meanwhile, the Job Trainer Fund will double, with $506.3 million allocated over two years matched by funding from the states and territories. Delivered in partnership with state-based TAFEs, the program offers free or affordable training courses to help young people develop vital skills for entering the workforce.
Other programs designed to improve workforce participation, attract talent into industries like construction and future-proof Australia’s workforce include:
On any measure of economic performance, Murray believes Australia’s economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience throughout the pandemic, despite many challenges.
“Australia remains relatively strong and globally competitive,” Murray concludes. “Supporting job creation, training and up-skilling, enabling workforce participation and boosting activity within these key sectors will be critical components of the country’s continued recovery.”
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