Lost opportunity: lost generation

The 2020 Federal Budget has recognised that young people are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated youth unemployment which was already significantly on the rise before the pandemic. The centrepiece of the Government’s JobMaker Plan is the hiring credit of $200 per week for new employees under 30 and $100 per week for those aged 30-35 years, designed to encourage the uptake of young workers by employers. The employee must work a minimum of 20 hours per week and the credit is only available for 12 months.

CMY CEO Carmel Guerra said this will entrench young people in casualised jobs and keep them in a state of continued under-employment and job insecurity.

“Without a long-term plan for addressing youth unemployment, young people are left without much hope for the future and further disconnected from opportunities to reach their full potential.

“Young people do not need short-term hand-outs but a broader youth jobs guarantee, as part of a targeted and forward-thinking youth employment strategy.”

Despite having various qualifications and skills, multicultural young people are battling numerous obstacles to get a job with the goal post moving further and further away. The budget measure of $12.7 million over two years to extend the Youth Transition Support and Youth Hub Programs is a much-needed addition, yet not enough to respond adequately in the longer term to the deep problem of multicultural youth unemployment. Apart from that, the budget does not include any measures for international students and temporary migrants.

In our new report, ‘Hidden Cost: Young multicultural Victorians and COVID-19‘, findings show that young multicultural Victorians have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis, experiencing high rates of job losses, financial and housing stress, and education disruption.

“The lack of targeted approaches for multicultural young people means that they will be crowded out of this new labour market,” Ms Guerra said.

“Any youth employment strategy must include measures to tackle racism – a key barrier that we know locks many young people out of the labour market.”

The provision of $35 million over four years for the Safer Communities Fund together with $62.8 million over five years for social cohesion and community resilience is welcomed. Among the number of initiatives that this investment will fund, grants will go towards organisations addressing risks from racial and/or religious intolerance. We believe the Federal Government has missed an opportunity to directly respond to recent global and local events that have highlighted the systemic racism that exists in Australian society, by reinstating a national anti-racism strategy.

In CMY’s recent survey of young Victorians outlined in the ‘Hidden Cost’ report, 85% of participants from multicultural backgrounds reported at least one direct experience of racial discrimination. Internationally, racism and racial discrimination have been dubbed the ‘second pandemic’ with racism declared a ‘public health emergency’.

“This budget has missed a huge opportunity to demonstrate Australia’s commitment to stamping out racism by taking the lead in preventing and eliminating this second pandemic,” Ms Guerra said.

“There is a direct correlation between experiences of racism and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

This has been further compounded by the mental health ramifications of COVID-19 for young people. We welcome the targeted Victorian mental health package of $47.3 million over two years for additional mental health and crisis support services for people experiencing mental illness and distress. Despite this welcome measure, we know from our work with multicultural young people that services aren’t always accessible or inclusive.

We urge the Government and mental health service providers to actively work with organisations and communities to meet the challenge head on in tailoring culturally appropriate and relevant responses for the benefit of multicultural young people and their communities.