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Burning Budget Issues: youth unemployment and mental health

April 6, 2021 Youth Employment

With the withdrawal of Jobkeeper on 28 March it’s even more important that this year’s federal budget focuses on tackling Australia’s 13% youth unemployment and mental health support for young people.

With an estimated 150,000 – 250,000 workers from the Jobkeeper program expected to join the unemployment queues from this week, the Y is deeply concerned that young people will face additional challenges in either returning to work or getting their first foothold in the labour market over the coming months.

The flagship of the Y’s Pre-Budget Submission to Government is a new Y Career Agency – designed to support tens of thousands of young people onto a carer career track with skills and training. As one of Australia’s largest employers of young people (over 7,000 nationally), the Y is well placed to offer the career guidance and support required particularly in those regional areas where there is high youth unemployment/underemployment and a high demand for care workers.

Young people have fared much worse than many other parts of the population in the 12 months since COVID-19 hit, with the rate of youth unemployment still more than double that of the rest of the population. Despite some positive signs in recent months, nearly 75,000 more young people are currently unemployed compared to March 2020.

In a recent survey of Y staff and volunteers across the country, the Top 4 issues for young people were identified as:

  1. The mental health of young people (in general)
  2. Impact of COVID-19 on education and employment for young people
  3. Employment and economic participation opportunities for young people (in general)
  4. Mental health of young people related to COVID-19.

As part of the annual Pre-Budget Submission to government, the Y Australia’s CEO Melinda Crole says that failing to listen and respond to the needs of young people is going to have catastrophic long term impacts on the national economy, communities and individuals.

“Talking to young people across our nearly 600 services and to those adults and young people working with them, it’s critical that the Government take concerted action to ensure that young people are being included in the national recovery effort”, says Ms Crole.

“Getting the country back to work, means creating opportunities for young people to either start or restart their employment journey after the disruption of COVID-19. We must remember that young people are not only suffering from higher unemployment rates right now, but their long term economic and social participation could be affected for years to come”.

The 2021 Federal Budget provides an important opportunity to start putting the building blocks for better youth policies and initiative back in place.

“On Budget Night this year, we are planning a national online survey of young people to capture responses from young Australians to the budget initiatives – we want to ensure their voices are heard and amplified in the community’s discussion about economic and social priorities” said Ms Crole.

“Luckily young people are natives in the digital space and this is where we go to connect with them directly. The Government will be able to hear directly from over 500 young people post Budget within hours, not weeks or months.”

About the Y

The Y is a community not-for-profit and the oldest youth organisation in the world (176 years’ old). Services include: children’s services (early learning, kindergarten and OSHC), recreation (swimming, gyms, gymnastics), camping, youth programs and disability services.

The Y’s services experience more than 29.5 million annual participations, including 9.84 million children participations and 1.2 million youth participations annually.

Impacts of COVID-19 on young people’s employment

  • The latest Labour Market Update (March 2021) confirms that young people continue to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, given their higher representation in industries with casual employment including in retail, accommodation and food services.
  • While representing only 15% of the population, young people accounted for 62% of the total fall in employment between March and November 2020 (LMU 2021).
  • Youth unemployment rose from 11.6% in March 2020 to a peak of 16.4% in July 2020 before falling to 15.6% in November 2020. Since March 2020, the youth unemployment rate has risen by 1.3 percentage points (LMU 2021).
  • As was seen in the 2009 Global Financial Crisis and other economic downturns, the long term impact on young people’s employment and long term career opportunities is expected to extend beyond the initial health crisis.
  • Young people (15-24) have consistently had the highest underemployment rates in Australia for the past decade (ABS).
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