In its Small Business Perspective report, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia argued that, because of the success of JobKeeper, a refined and improved design must be included as part of the federal government’s planned armoury for the next global economic crisis.
COSBOA surveyed leaders of 33 industry associations representing a diverse range of small businesses for the report. It asked them about their experiences of Australian government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report said the successful aspects of the design of JobKeeper must not be lost or forgotten, and that successful elements of wage replacement programs implemented in other countries, such as more sophisticated targeting of subsidies, should be carefully studied and used to improve a future JobKeeper-style program.
In assessing the effectiveness of the design and operation of JobKeeper, the COSBOA report highlighted several issues that needed to be addressed to minimise adverse consequences in any future program.
The report cited issues including eligibility exclusions for certain categories of employers and workers, targeting issues that resulted in businesses being incorrectly excluded based on “business type” definitions, and potential for misuse, citing ASX-listed companies that paid executive bonuses after claiming JobKeeper subsidies.
Other issues cited include observed barriers to labour reallocation as well as issues associated with the pace of wind-back of the JobKeeper subsidy for all business types.
Despite those issues, all business leaders surveyed said the issues were relatively minor when compared with the benefits delivered to their small business members.
“The economic consequences of COVID19 challenged us all, but the experience provided some important lessons for small business owners and policymakers alike,” said COSBOA chair Mark McKenzie.
“It is essential that we convert these experiences into good polic[ies] that minimise the adverse economic impact of future events.”