Joe Hockey
Joe Hockey

Hockey relies on women, 'grey army' to help budget

HARNESSING an aging "grey army" of future workers and lifting female employment participation were two essential ingredients of combating 40 years of possible budget deficits, Treasurer Joe Hockey said today.

Releasing the Intergenerational Report, Mr Hockey indicated his long-term plans for tackling rising government spending as the nation's population increased to 40 million by 2055.

Mr Hockey said the report showed the need for building workforce participation rates among older Australians and women in order to drive productivity and economic growth.

The report showed average incomes would almost double to $117,300; life expectancy would rise to 95 for men and 97 for women, and economic growth would be slightly slower at 2.8% compared to 3.1% in the past 40 years.

Mr Hockey said the report showed if the government's current budget plans were not legislated by the Senate, hope of a surplus by next decade was unlikely.

He said doing nothing about the budget situation was not an option, but characterised the report as a positive "opportunity" for the future.

While the report laid out plans for the next 40 years, it made no actual budget proposals. Key to executing the government's agenda before the May budget, the report also compared Labor's policies when in government, the current government's existing legislated plans and its proposals yet to pass the Senate.

Labor and The Greens have pounced on the report.

They said it had little mention of climate change, despite Peter Costello's report in 2005 laying out climate change as a significant economic problem that Australia faced.

Mr Hockey also cited innovation and education as issues that could help economic growth out to 2055.

Agreement on need for action on economic future, but the plans differ

WHILE major lobby groups are divided on what must be done to ensure future economic growth, most have acknowledged the need for action.

Unions have urged the government not to "cut your way to growth", while business is urging action and alternatives from the government's critics.

The community sector has asked whether the budget should be restored by cutting pensions or asking "those who can work longer" and pay more tax to do so.

But environmental groups have hit out loudly at the report's lack of emphasis on the economic effects of climate change.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell said "serious changes" were needed if the economy was to remain strong and employment was to grow.

"Just saying no is not a viable option," she said.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O'Neill said people were already choosing to work longer, but more needed to be done to support older unemployed people.

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