For governments and policy makers, COVID-19 is a chance to address the existing problems for younger Australian workers as youth unemployment looks set to peak.
Australians in their teens and twenties might be at minimal risk from COVID-19 itself, but they are at risk of significant financial impacts as the true economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis becomes clear.
Already experiencing high levels of unemployment and under-employment before the spread of COVID-19, young people are likely to be disproportionately impacted by pandemic-induced job losses because of the industries they often work in, like hospitality and retail.
A new study at the University of Melbourne – the Youth Employment Study - is looking at the employment experiences of young Aussies during and after the pandemic. The research aims to recognise their specific needs as recovery policies are considered.
According to Treasury figures released on April 14, Australia’s unemployment rate is expected to increase from 5.1 per cent to 10 per cent in the June quarter due to the pandemic.
For young people, we know that the longer they are out of work, the more likely it is that their skills and productivity deteriorate, as does their self-esteem and mental health.
Young people who have lost jobs during this pandemic, or were on the cusp of entering the workforce, risk missing out on building much-needed skills and experience during the crucial early stages of their careers.
History shows that damage to career prospects and earning potential is often long-term and even permanent.
Young Australians were already doing it tough. Youth unemployment rates in Australia were more than double the overall unemployment rate, and were almost three times higher than for those aged 25 and over.
Research shows that young workers were already acutely exposed to job stressors and under-employment, too.
The Youth Employment Study (YES) aims to capture the voices of young people grappling with the complexities of employment in a pandemic, guided by an advisory group of young people actually experiencing the economic consequences of the pandemic.
“Losing your job and the supports that come along with it means that your financial stability is at risk, and so is your mental state,” says YES Youth Advisory Group member, 20-year-old Rhiannon Jones.
“Not all of us are equipped or resilient enough to bounce back into an unsteady job market.”