CEO message: Young jobseekers at risk of being left behind in COVID-19 recovery

With the easing of some restrictions this week, we are heartened by the way the community has come together, responded to government advice and played an important role in reducing the spread of Coronavirus in Victoria. More on the latest restrictions in Victoria here.

The Victorian Government also announced earlier this week that schools will begin a staged return to face-to-face learning from Tuesday 26 May 2020.

More information on returning to school in your language.

As outlined in my previous update, we know this term has been incredibly challenging for families from migrant or refugee backgrounds, trying to support children and young people with learning from home. We will continue to work closely with families to support the transition back to school; we also continue to provide tailored support and advice to out-of-school-hours learning support programs, whose work is critical in ensuring no students are left behind.

Young jobseekers are at risk of being left behind

One of the most devastating impacts of the current COVID-19 health crisis we are seeing is the increase in youth unemployment. We know this will have far-reaching consequences, not only now but for many years into the future as Victoria turns its focus towards post-crisis recovery.

CMY is particularly concerned about the many young jobseekers we support who already face significant disadvantage in their education and employment journey, which has only intensified during this crisis.

We know that young people will be the hardest hit by job loss and long-term economic downturn as a result of COVID-19. Workers from migrant and refugee backgrounds will also experience this crisis of the labour-market disproportionately. (Source)

The intersection of being both young, and from a migrant or refugee background, creates a double disadvantage in this crisis.

Prior to COVID-19, young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds already faced persistent barriers when trying to access the job market. Some of these barriers include:

  • Lack of bridging social capital – networks to help them ‘get ahead’
  • Racism and discrimination, such as unconscious bias
  • Unfamiliarity with employment options, pathways and the labour market in Australia
  • Lack of Australian-based work experience
  • Interrupted education, and
  • English as an Additional Language, amongst others.

Going forward, it is vital that all efforts to rebuild young people’s attachment to employment include a strong focus on those who already experience disadvantage, to prevent them from being locked out of the job market over the long-term.

CMY strongly welcomes the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment as a critical measure to keep workers connected to employers during this crisis. However, we hold real concerns for the many casual workers and temporary visa holders – a large proportion of whom are young people – who do not qualify for JobKeeper or other forms of income support.

CMY also applauds the Victorian government’s $500 million ‘Working for Victoria’ initiative and $500 million ‘Business Support Fund’, as part of the $1.7 billion Economic Survival package providing support to Victorian businesses. We are particularly pleased to see the Working for Victoria initiative is open to casuals and temporary visa holders including international students.

In addition to these initiatives, we urge the government to ensure that young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds are explicitly targeted and supported at this time, to ensure they are not further disadvantaged.

What young people are telling us

CMY’s employment team has been consulting with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds about the impacts of COVID-19 and the support they need during this time. Some of the main focus areas of these conversations included:

  • Job losses, reduction in hours, and job offers rescinded
  • Loss of confidence and an uncertain future
  • Loss of family income & housing insecurity
  • Health, safety and rights at work
  • Mental health concerns
  • Increased responsibilities in the home – including caring, contributing to family income, supporting family members
  • Impact on education and training
  • Need for help accessing income support
  • Valuable role of employment-related mentors during this time.

The challenges and uncertainty young people are facing is backed up by history and research, with reports suggesting that youth unemployment will soar and the impacts of this crisis will continue to felt over the next decade.

The Grattan Institute report ‘Shutdown: estimating the COVID-19 employment shock’ released last month found that low-income workers, young people and women would be the worst impacted in this crisis. The report estimated about 40 per cent of teenagers will lose work due to the COVID-19 crisis, with young people in their 20s being the next most-likely groups to face job losses.

Read the Grattan Institute report.

In response to this crisis, we strongly urge the government to consider the following key recommendations, which will help to ensure that young jobseekers are explicitly targeted and supported, now and into the future.

1. State and Federal Government must develop and urgently invest in a youth employment strategy, that has a targeted focus on groups who face significant disadvantage in the job market, especially those from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

This could be through:
a. A Youth Jobs and Training Guarantee, including targeted measures to make sure young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds are a particular focus, and stand to benefit from the scheme.
b. Paid, professional internships and wage subsidy employment programs for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, that build work experience, skills, professional networks and provide a strong pathway to future ongoing work.
c. Resourcing and partnering with community organisations already working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to ensure they can access these initiatives, particularly as digital access and literacy can be a challenge for many.

2. Support young people who were in work pre-COVID-19, to stay in work.

a. Expand JobKeeper to cover all casuals, regardless of their visa status or length of employment, to promote attachment to the labour force and prevent long-term youth unemployment post COVID-19.
b. Support industries with high numbers of casual staff to maintain their workforce.
c. Resource community-based employment programs that have a strong record of working effectively with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds to help them engage with mentors, build employability skills, gain work experience and connect with training and employment opportunities, to prevent disadvantage becoming further entrenched.

As we look towards the future, and the rebuilding phase, we must do everything we possibly can to ensure that all young jobseekers have access to opportunities that allow them to reach their potential, and make a positive contribution to our community post-COVID-19.

Info line during COVID-19 – MY Connect

In response young peoples’ need for relevant, accurate and accessible information during this uncertain time, CMY has launched MY Connect: a dedicated phone service with experienced staff available to help young people to understand what support they are eligible for, and to connect them to the services and supports they need.

Call MY Connect on (03) 9340 3770, 8am – 8pm, Monday to Friday.