The Government’s scheme to let older Australians take jobs in the ailing tourism industry and still receive the Pension has been made permanent.

As part of the $48 million Supporting Tourism and Travel package introduced in the October 2022 Budget, changes to the Work Bonus program have been credited with a 14.4% increase in the number of pensioners employed in the sector.

In the same period, from December 2022 to June 2023, wages earned by pensioners jumped 21%, or $155 million, compared to the previous corresponding ­period.

Barry Iddles, CEO at Sorrento Catering and owner of restaurant 350Q in Queenscliff, Victoria, said after the Covid-19 pandemic, when staff were thin on the ground, he went about rebuilding his workforce with a mixture of seniors and juniors, which had worked a treat.

“I thought, ‘I’m nearly 70 and I work 14 to 15 hours a day. I’m sure there would be others like me out there with plenty of energy who don’t want to sit around singing Kumbaya,’” he said.

“My oldest worker is 79. She’s an absolute cracker, swims every morning, she’s super fit.

“Then there’s Ken, he’s 72. His wife came in and said, ‘My husband was going to apply but he doesn’t have a resume.’ He’s fantastic. Taken to hospitality like a duck to water.”

Barry said the ability for seniors to earn up to $11,800 ­without affecting their pensions, up from $4,000 previously was a tremendous help.

“I’d love it if our government was the same as those in New Zealand and Canada where they take the view that seniors have paid taxes all their lives and any work after retirement shouldn’t affect their pension at all,” Barry said.