Parliament – Youth Recovery Strategy

Monday, 19 October 2020

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (12:50):  I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that young Australians have disproportionately felt the economic and social pain that the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and recession have brought;

(2) notes that young people:

(a) are facing an extraordinary jobs crisis, and:

(i) in March 2020, 15 per cent of all jobs were filled by young people yet 40 per cent of all jobs lost since then were young Australians aged 14 to 24;

(ii) there are now over 345,900 young Australians out of work; and

(iii) nearly 2 in 5 young people are now unemployed or need more work;

(b) are struggling to afford life’s essentials, and:

(i) 70 per cent of young Australians are now concerned about their financial wellbeing;

(ii) young people have missed payments for household bills at a rate of 2 to 3 times the general population; and

(iii) 52 per cent of young renters and 45 per cent of young mortgage holders were concerned about their ability to make housing payments in July 2020;

(c) are suffering severe social disruption, and:

(i) many have missed out on once in a lifetime milestones and rites of passage;

(ii) more feel isolated due to lockdowns with some schools closed, campus life extinguished, and social gatherings restricted or prohibited; and

(iii) 51 per cent of young people felt their mental health had worsened during the crisis;

(d) are grappling with disruptions to education and training, and:

(i) many feel their motivation and career plans have been dented; and

(ii) 53 per cent feel their study has been negatively affected; and

(e) feel they don’t have a voice in politics—52 per cent of young people felt they had a say ‘none of the time’ in public affairs; and

(3) calls on the Government to work with young people and urgently design a comprehensive COVID‑19 youth recovery strategy that gets young Australians through this crisis and builds their futures.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has affected all Australians. All Australians have been doing it tough, but it has been young Australians that, in many ways, have felt the significant brunt of the lockdowns and the things that we’ve had to do to keep our community safe. There have been both short-and long-term impacts on their economic security but also their way of life, which has been disrupted. When I have talked to young people around this country, and I have had ongoing Zoom conferences around this country with young people, they talk about a number of issues, but are very clear that they’re all interconnected. Young people are seeing the connection between their mental health and their economic insecurity. The disruption to their lives is interconnected. What they have been calling for, and rightly so, is a coordinated, holistic response from government. We are more than seven months into the crisis and, unfortunately, this government has provided no holistic plan to support young people through this difficult time, to help build their futures for the long term and to give them hope.

It is disappointing that the minister for youth has been completely silent. We haven’t even seen a press release since the budget, talking about young people and making sure young people’s voices are heard. When we look at some of the challenges, we see that young people held 15 per cent of all jobs in March but accounted for around 40 per cent of the job losses. One in three young Australians are now without a job or in need of more hours. The longer this goes on the more it will hurt these young people. Fifty-one per cent of young people feel their mental health has worsened and 53 per cent feel their study has been negatively affected, according to headspace data. There is some extraordinary strain and they aren’t getting the support they need. Forty-four per cent of young people living out of home could not make rent or mortgage repayments in May, according to ANU data. One reason is that 26 per cent of workers are casual and with less than 12 months service, making them ineligible for JobKeeper. Many of these young people missed out, and this is compared to 6.5 per cent of all other age groups. This has meant that those aged 18 to 24 were also more likely to make early super withdrawals. According to ME Bank, 30 per cent of young people have done so, compared to the population average of eight per cent.

It’s hard to overstate the long-term challenges that young people will face. This generation, unfortunately, may well have the odds stacked against them. They will try to enter the workforce and the housing market, and they will recommence or commence education in the midst of a recession for the first time in 30 years. This has long-term impacts. A Productivity Commission report found that those entering the workforce during a weak labour market are offered lower starting wages and young workers are pushed to take part-time work and roles for which they do not use their qualifications.

Modelling by Ernst & Young found that this meant that 21-year-olds are likely to miss out on up to $32,000 of income over 10 years. This was in the wake of the GFC and, of course, we are now seeing the challenges of the current recession.

We need to act urgently. Unfortunately, we need more than the marketing slogans and short-term measures that the Morrison government has been offering. The government’s hiring credit subsidy scheme is not really a plan for the long term. While it may help some young people in the short term, it is not a long-term plan. We need a youth recovery strategy that’s a comprehensive analysis of how policy areas interact and impact young people and we need a clear plan of what needs to be done by government to get young people through the COVID recession and the many years that lie ahead.

What young people need now is hope. This government and the minister for youth are not providing that. I call on the minister to deliver a youth recovery strategy, because that’s what young people want.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rick Wilson):  Is there a seconder for the motion?

Dr Freelander:  I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

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