Older workers are already being laid off by employers eager to take on younger people eligible for the $200 JobMaker subsidy.
Ian Yates from COTA Australia said the peak body had been told of several mature-aged workers being given notice as employers prepare to take advantage of the JobMaker subsidies.
"We are very worried," he said. "Already we've seen reports of older workers being laid off so they can be replaced with JobMaker workers.
"Many mature-aged workers who are out of work due to the pandemic are facing disastrous personal circumstances. The Liquid Assets Waiting Period means they must spend their savings before they can get help: savings they will need in retirement.
Many mature aged workers who are out of work due to the pandemic are facing disastrous personal circumstances. The Liquid Assets Waiting Period means they must spend their savings before they can get help. Savings they will need in retirement.- Ian Yates COTA Australia
"Australia needs urgent action or we'll push a huge group, mostly women, into poverty in old age."
Mr Yates urged any older person who believed they were being pushed out of a job to make way for a younger employee to contact the Age Discrimination Commissioner.
He said people 18-24 and over-55s were the most vulnerable unemployed, and older people took twice as long to get a job.
Mr Yates made his comments as Anglicare Australia released a report revealing that in some parts of the country there are a staggering 106 jobseekers for every entry level job.
Anglicare Australia's annual Jobs Availability Snapshot found that disadvantaged jobseekers are competing with more people for fewer jobs.
The snapshot looks at people who have barriers to work. They could be older workers who lost their jobs later in life, people who didn't finish Year 12, or people with disabilities. It compares this with the number of entry-level jobs. These are jobs that do not call for recent work experience, or qualifications beyond high school.
It compares government data on the number of people with barriers to getting work (those in Stream C of the Jobactive system), with the number of online positions in their skill level (ANZSCO Level 5 jobs) advertised in the sample month of May 2020. Entry-level jobs include cleaners and laundry workers, farm, forestry and garden workers, food preparation, hospitality and wait staff, labourers, retail assistants, salespeople and sales support workers.
This year, the snapshot found that eight of these jobseekers are competing for each entry-level job. In some parts of the country that number is as high as 20, and this assumes those jobseekers are competing only with one another. If all jobseekers are included there are a staggering 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job.
There are also 1.63 million Australians under-employed who could also be competing for these jobs.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers says more people are competing for fewer entry-level jobs and the system is failing those who need help.
In this downturn, people who need the most help to find work are being left behind. Our research shows that eight of these jobseekers are competing for each entry-level job. There aren't enough jobs at their skill level to meet demand in any part of the country. The situation is toughest in SA and Tasmania. In SA, 10 of these jobseekers are competing for each suitable job. And in Tasmania, a staggering 20 jobseekers are competing for each one of these jobs.- Kasy Chambers Anglicare Australia
"In this downturn, people who need the most help to find work are being left behind. Our research shows that eight of these jobseekers are competing for each entry-level job.
"There aren't enough jobs at their skill level to meet demand in any part of the country. The situation is toughest in SA and Tasmania. In SA, 10 of these jobseekers are competing for each suitable job. And in Tasmania, a staggering 20 jobseekers are competing for each one of these jobs.
"This doesn't include people with more skills and experience, who are also competing for this work in the wake of job losses. In total, there are a staggering 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job.
"Many of the jobseekers we're looking at are older people who have been left out of the JobMaker scheme.
"They're facing cuts to their payments, and they're being forced to jump through hoops and apply for jobs. But our research shows the jobs just aren't there.
"If we're serious about helping people, we need to create jobs that match their skills - instead of forcing them to compete for jobs that just aren't there.
"We need to abolish Jobactive, which simply isn't helping people find work. Instead private providers are paid to punish and breach people.
"And we need to stop cuts to the JobSeeker payment. Record numbers of people are out of work. They shouldn't be trapped in poverty while they get their lives together."
Kristin O'Connell from the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union said as awful as these numbers are, they don't tell the full story.
"People in stream C aren't helped by the brutal Jobactive system, and indeed they are directly harmed by it," she said.
"People in stream C aren't the only ones trying to get these jobs - they are in competition with millions of unemployed people who have higher qualifications, face few barriers to work and are desperate to take any job at all; they are in competition with people already in the workforce who need more hours.
"For many, their job search feels like a hopeless and fruitless exercise - stream C participants know they have almost no chance of getting these jobs."
Rosa is in her early 60s and speaks English as a second language. She's been out of work for three years after decades in hospitality.
"At my very first interview with my Jobactive provider, I was told that I am not unlikely to find a job at my age. Since then, they haven't even been pretending to help me."
Before the pandemic, Rosa's Jobactive provider had been scheduling meetings with her without notifying her. This could have led to breaches and a suspension of her payment.
Rosa had been doing Work for the Dole until mutual obligations were suspended in the wake of COVID-19. With a higher rate of JobSeeker and no mutual obligations, Rosa has been able to stop doing Work for the Dole. Instead she has been caring for her grandchildren while her daughter goes to work.
The higher rate of JobSeeker also means she can catch up on phone bills and buy a refrigerator. She has even put away a little money to cover future emergencies - like flat tyres or visits to the doctor.
But Rosa has already been pressured to return to Work for the Dole even though it is not compulsory.
"I am dreading the next few months," she said. "My payments are going to be cut. I'll have to go back onto $40 a day; I'll have to give up caring for my grandchildren when all the rules come back - even though looking after the kids is the most useful thing I could be doing.
"None of the things I have to do will help me get a job. But all of it makes life harder."
Key to recovery
A new international report launched this week unveils the significant, and growing, economic impact of older workers across the G20 indicating older workers are the key to post-COVID recovery.
The report by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK), the UK's specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, shows across the G20, every third dollar is earned by someone aged 50 or over, enabling more older people to work could increase GDP by 7 per cent and countries that spend more on health have higher employment rates at older ages.
The report, launched ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers' and Central Bankers' meeting, says nearly one in three workers across the G20 is already 50 and over. This could rise to 40 per cent of the workforce by 2035.
In 2014, workers aged 50 and older generated every third dollar earned across the G20. By 2035 this cohort is projected to generate nearly 40 per cent of all earnings. If the G20 countries studied enabled older people to work at the same rates seen in Iceland, they could see a GDP gain of USD3.7 trillion - averaging 7 per cent of GDP.
The report argues that leveraging the economic contributions of older people will be instrumental in the global post-pandemic recovery, and that addressing health barriers to work for older people can unlock a significant "longevity dividend".
To maximise the economic contributions of older people in the post-pandemic recovery and beyond, ILC-UK is calling on G20 governments to deliver an Ageing Society New Deal that would see countries invest more in preventative healthcare and support work in an ageing world.
"Policy makers are so fixated on the direct costs of ageing that they fail to notice the significant and growing contributions that older people make. This prevents them from fully realising the social and economic potential of older people - and from appreciating the longevity dividend," said centre director David Sinclair.
"Older people's social and economic impact is already significant, but there's potential to increase this further. The barriers they face are in part avoidable - and the most important is poor health.
"Despite the tragedy and the devastation, COVID-19 has placed society in an exceptional moment to prioritise health and act on ageing. It has shown us how health and the economy are linked and has exposed the dangers of under-investing in prevention.
"Let's use this shift in mindset to raise the necessary funds today to realise a longevity dividend tomorrow."