The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered serious economic consequences and new stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are showing young people carry the heaviest burden in terms of employment and wage losses.
The new report shows people under the age of 20 have suffered a 9.9% reduction in employment, and a 12.7% decrease in total wages, since Australia recorded its hundredth confirmed case of COVID-19 on 14 March.
These numbers mean teenagers are the age group whose jobs and back pocket have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
According to the report, people in their twenties haven’t fared much better, as they’ve seen an 8.8% drop in employment and a 9.1% hit to their wages.
Interestingly, older Australians are struggling too, with people over 70 recording the second worst numbers, a 9.7% drop in employment and 9.1% in wages. Overall Australia has seen a 6% drop in jobs and a 6.7% drop in wages across all age groups.
Why are so many people losing their jobs? Simply because social distancing restrictions make it impossible for many of them to work. Before the pandemic, 2 million Australians were casual workers without permanent employment, and 40% of these workers were aged 15-24. These are the first employees to be stood down or suspended during a pandemic lockdown.
I can’t pay rent, can I get help?
If you’re one of the people losing their job and wages, there are a range of support packages you may be able to access. The most recent of these is the $154 million relief package put forward by the WA government on 23 April.
The package includes $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 to help struggling tenants pay four weeks of rent to keep a roof over their heads. Premier Mark McGowan said the payments will be delivered directly to landlords.
If you’re renting, you need to apply and will be eligible if you have lost your job, have applied to Centrelink for income support, or have less than $10,000 in savings and are paying at least 25 per cent of your rent.
I’m unemployed, what can I do?
Other relief measures include the Jobkeeper program launched by the Federal Government in March.
Under the program, eligible workers will receive a $1,500 fortnightly payment in order to keep them employed in the job they had before the pandemic.
However, unlike the WA relief package for tenants, or Centrelink payments, the Jobkeeper scheme is managed between employers and the government. This means your employer, not you, needs to apply for the payments and pass them on to you in full. If you earn more than $1,500 a fortnight, your employer is required to make up the difference to make sure you are paid in full.
According to employment law experts, this means the program is vulnerable to wage theft. Maurice Blackburn employment law principal Giri Sivaraman told the ABC he’s already seeing evidence of employers taking advantage of the scheme. Some by sacking workers so they don’t get the fund and others by lying about their eligibility.
Any disputes or concerns about an employer and Jobkeeper need to be taken up with the Australian Taxation Office. Visit their Making a Tip-off page for instructions on how to do this.
If you’re legitimately not eligible for Jobkeeper, the government is encouraging you to apply for Centrelink Jobseeker payments. However, there’s a different set of rules for these payments, including income and asset testing for you and your parents if you still live at home.
Mental health support
The COVID-19 pandemic is also a mental health crisis. Social isolation and economic downturn has left many people vulnerable to mental health problems. If you or anyone you know need help you can contact the following services.
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774