Scott Morrison has defended his decision to limit proposed wage subsidies to businesses who hire people aged 35 and under.
Almost three in five people believe the hiring credits should be available for all new jobs offered to unemployed people, regardless of their age.
Only a third of respondents to a Newspoll survey backed the prime minister’s position of excluding anyone aged over 35.
Mr Morrison said youth unemployment was double the broader population and young people had lost jobs and working hours at higher rates than others.
“We’ve got a real problem and the COVID recession has hit those younger people even harder,” he told 4BC radio on Monday.
“That’s not to say others haven’t been hit though, of course they have, but you’ve got to focus and put priorities on the problem where it has been most acute.”
The prime minister said young people who started their working lives on the dole were more likely to spend many years on welfare.
“That is not something I want to see for anyone,” he said.
“We are trying to break the cycle.”
Mr Morrison said the wage subsidies needed to be viewed alongside other initiatives including apprenticeships and training places open to all adults.
He also pointed to existing incentives for businesses that hire older unemployed people.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government was wrong to limit the hiring credits to young people, rather than opening the program to all Australians.
“A whole lot of Australians were left behind last week, whether they be over 35s, whether they be women,” he told reporters in Adelaide.
“The fact is that this is a government that is just focused on 24-hour politics and marketing slogans, and last Tuesday’s budget reflects that.”
Four in five respondents to the Newspoll approved of fast-tracked income tax cuts in the budget.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is confident people will soon start spending the money.
Mr Frydenberg said economic uncertainty and coronavirus restrictions had prevented people from opening their wallets.
“Once those restrictions are eased, more money will be spent across the economy as a result of these tax cuts,” he told the Seven Network.
The treasurer also firmed his language around scrapping JobKeeper wage subsidies in March.
“The next phase of the recovery is going to be a private-led recovery,” he said.
He and the prime minister continue to reject suggestions the budget did not do enough for women.
Mr Morrison also criticised Labor’s post-budget pledge to make child care more affordable.
“All the supports we provide across the economy for individuals are means tested,” he said.
“Every dollar we spend is carefully spent and carefully targeted.”