By William Olson
A recent run of statistics regarding Australia’s young people in the workforce, occurring prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, reveal an alarming trend towards record levels of unemployment and under-employment for men and women in that demographic.
And with that, it only highlights the growing inequality happening within the country.
Citing a current national average of 12 workers vying for every available job, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) points out that the job market for the 15-to-24-year-old demographic is at a 42-year low since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) started tracking such data in 1978.
With regard to unemployment and under-employment figures for that demographic, 37.8 per cent of young workers are either out of work or looking for more hours at work, with many of them only clinging onto their jobs via the Morrison government’s JobKeeper scheme.
“Young people are facing conditions that we haven’t seen since the 1970s. They need support from the Government to ensure that they come out of this pandemic with a job,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said when the ABS statistics were released.
“What they are getting instead is baseless assertions from the Morrison Government that they aren’t taking their opportunities. The data clearly shows these opportunities are a figment of the Government’s imagination,” she added.
O’Neil also implores those within the government to act on extending or increasing the JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes before they are due to expire within the next three months.
“Cutting JobKeeper in September would be a catastrophe for the millions of Australian workers who are currently using it to pay their bills and rent,” said O’Neil.
“We need leadership and a plan for job creation from this Government, not a tired rerun of blaming unemployed young people for the fact they can’t find a job,” she added.
The ACTU also points out that a greater concentration of the unemployment and under-employment problem as it pertains to young workers lies in regional areas, such as in regional Queensland and regional Tasmania.
The ACTU, while foreshadowing an unveiling of its plan to inspire an employment revival in those areas next week, has also hit out at the government for not addressing the issue, nor for having a plan which inspires unemployment numbers to drop in those regions.
“Our message to Australians in regional Queensland and Tasmania is this: The Morrison government needs to step up and deliver a comprehensive plan to protect and create jobs. The Australian union movement has a comprehensive plan for jobs that will rebuild our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic and the government are welcome to use it as a starting point,” O’Neil has declared.
“If the Commonwealth government won’t provide leadership on this, Australian unions will,” she added.
Exploitation among international students is also ripe on top of the frustrations of young workers. A survey of over 5000 international students at the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney has come to the following conclusions surrounding wage theft and poor employment conditions and entitlements:
- Three out of every four students surveyed are being paid below the legal minimum wage, per the National Employment Standards set out by the Fair Work Commission;
- One of every four students surveyed are even being paid less than $12 per hour;
- During the pandemic, international students have had their superannuation stolen;
- These students have had to wait in long lines at food banks in order to survive;
- And two out of every three international students surveyed did not seek information or help at work, because of “visa concerns or fear of job loss”.
Tony Burke, in his role as shadow minister for industrial relations, says that the findings of the survey have an impact on all workers within Australia, and not just the demographic of younger workers.
“Exploitation of people on temporary visas puts downward pressure on wages of all workers in Australia. Just like temporary migrants, Australians are experiencing wage theft on a wide scale which makes the first recession in 29 years even more challenging for hard-working Australians and their families,” said Burke.
Kristina Keneally, the ALP’s deputy Senate leader and the shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, concurs with Burke and his views to interpret the study.
“When the coronavirus pandemic began, Scott Morrison said we were all in this in together but the experiences of international students in Australia paints a vastly different picture,” said Keneally.
“Unlike Scott Morrison, Labor will always speak out against the exploitation of workers – including the exploitation of international students – expose it and organise against it,” she added.
That sense of determination from the opposition can only help in arresting the inequalities of younger workers and international students. Now to get assistance of effort from others of similar interests.
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