Australia should follow the European example and introduce a Youth Job Guarantee, according to a new report from the Australia Institute which reveals the true extent of youth employment devastation during the pandemic.
Despite representing just 14 per cent of workers, the new report, ‘Youth unemployment and the pandemic’, shows young people (aged 15-24) bore 39 per cent of the job losses in the 2020 lockdowns and a staggering 55 per cent of job losses in 2021.
The report also finds that while young people were twice as likely to lose their job in the pandemic, stimulus spending was disproportionally directed toward industries with minimal youth employment, including $2.7 billion to the aviation sector, $780 million to the Homebuilder grants program, and $2.9 billion to the “gas-fired recovery.”
“We’ve heard a lot this week about the headline unemployment rate of four per cent, but virtually nothing about youth unemployment which has now risen to 9.3 per cent,” said Eliza Littleton, research economist at the Australia Institute.
“It’s small wonder youth unemployment is so high when you consider how hard the jobs of young people were hammered during the pandemic and how little support they received. For example, our research shows hospitality and retail make up 42 per cent of youth employment, but received just 18 per cent of JobKeeper payments.
“Even the young people who can find work now are increasingly being required to sign up to casual or ‘gig’ based jobs that offer no sick leave, paid leave, or other entitlements.
“If we want to turn this around, we need real youth employment policies, like those we see in Japan, Germany, and Israel. Our research shows that in those nations, youth unemployment only rose during the pandemic between 1.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent. Countries with less supportive policies like the United States, Ireland, and Australia experienced increases of between 4.5 per cent and 12.4 per cent.
“Youth employment policy in Australia focuses too much on resume writing and not enough on creating more jobs.
“A Youth Job Guarantee would ensure that every young person who registered as unemployed gets access to either a job, a paid internship, or a training opportunity. The precedent has been set in a number of European countries. It would require the Australian government to fund private sector job creation and public sector graduate programs, alongside better, de-privatised employment services.
“It’s time to stop thinking of unemployed young people as a cost and start seeing them as a lost opportunity. If the 249,000 young people who want to work could be productively employed, they would earned $7.1 billion per year and increase GDP by $13.7 billion,” Ms Littleton said.
The new report was commissioned by Youth Action, the peak advocacy organisation representing young people and youth services in NSW, and draws on extensive consultation sessions with a diverse range of young people.
“This report highlights that young people in NSW bore the brunt of job losses, with Western Sydney and Regional NSW the hardest hit,” said Kate Munro, CEO of Youth Action.
“The pandemic has amplified pre-existing problems in the labour market for young people – there aren’t enough jobs and what jobs there are come with very little security.
“There are plenty of options for government to act. We need job guarantees, protections for casual workers, increasing income support, and better resourcing for public employment services providers.
“Young people are way overrepresented in the casual economy where they have fewer rights. If this remains the case they will continue to bear the brunt of economic downturns,” Ms Munro said.