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It’s been 10 months since Christine Menzel graduated from university, but the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 has left her scrambling to find a graduate job, and she’s ‘stuck’ working in a cafe in the meantime.
“There’s nowhere for me to even start right now because no one’s giving young people a chance,” the 22-year-old communications graduate from Sydney told HuffPost Australia.
“I’m on JobSeeker, but I don’t necessarily think handing out more money is the best solution. I want that job, I want that experience.
“The government needs to work together with businesses to ensure they’re actually hiring young people and graduates. All of the graduate programs are so hard to get into,” she said.
Menzel is not alone. Labour data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in September showed the unemployment rate for 15- to 24-year-olds was hovering near 20%, more than three times the national tally.
Unveiling the Federal Budget on Wednesday night, the government said it prioritised reducing youth unemployment through the JobMaker hiring credit and Jobtrainer fund.
The JobMaker hiring credit will encourage businesses to hire young people by subsiding the wages that employers (apart from banks) would pay these staff.
The government program, which will last 12 months, will pay $200 per week for each eligible employee aged 16 to 29, and $100 per week for each eligible employee aged 30 to 35. New hires must work for at least 20 hours a week.
The government will also spend $1.2 billion to create 100,000 new apprenticeships and trainee programs, with a 50% wage subsidy for businesses that employ young Australians.
Meanwhile, the $1 billion JobTrainer fund intends to create up to 340,000 free or low-cost training places for recent graduates and job seekers.
‘It’s one big hustle’
University student Wil Koslowski said he’s hopeful these fiscal measures will work but said, “I don’t know if it’s enough,” because so many people are applying for jobs.
“All I know is that right now for entry-level jobs, I’ve applied on LinkedIn and if you don’t get [the application done] in the first couple of hours, there are literally 300 applicants and you don’t get a response back,” he told HuffPost Australia.
The 24-year-old is in his final semester studying marketing and languages at the Australian National University in Canberra. He also travels three hours to Sydney each week for a two-day unpaid internship.
“It’s a fairly hopeless job hunt. Which is why I’m doing this internship so I can network and meet people and try my best to land something for afterwards,” he said.
“I’ve been emailing and ringing people and getting told everyone’s on a hiring freeze or a graduate program has shut down.
“At this point it’s just one big hustle. There is no handout, and there is no free job waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.”
Kelly Yau, 22, struggled to secure a graduate job in marketing after graduating from Melbourne’s Monash University in July. However, she was lucky to hold on to her previous casual job and do it full time, thanks to JobKeeper, which helps employers pay their current staff.
But she hopes the government’s JobMaker scheme can help get her a job that earns her more.
“These measures would be helpful to me if this means businesses have more incentive to hire and have the budget to provide a salary above the JobKeeper amount,” she said.
“But I think if you’re a business who’s already struggling to stay afloat, you won’t have the capacity to take on a new employee. Many businesses have already shut down due to financial problems, and the new measures wouldn’t be really helpful in that sense.”
According to University of New South Wales professor Kristy Muir, “the creation of jobs is really important for young people” in this “tough economic environment”.
“We’ve got a whole load of young people who don’t have jobs who are looking for jobs and can’t find them because the market is so tight,” said the CEO of the Centre for Social Impact.
“And then we’ve also got a whole load of young people who actually have jobs but are actually looking for more hours and more work but don’t have enough, which puts them in a very precarious position in terms of paying their bills and rent and being able to look after themselves more broadly.”
She said Australia has “had great success” in the past with “various employment programs where there have been supports in place,” such as the wage subsidies. However, these measures won’t help all.
“There are certain young people who will be experiencing this [unemployment or underemployment] more significantly than other young people.
“We know that Indigenous young people, for example, have higher unemployment and underemployment rates, and young people with disabilities and young people with different kinds of challenges living in different geographic areas [will struggle] to a higher level than other young people.”