Young people are already facing an uncertain and stressful future; a recession will hit them especially hard. There are policy options that will help us avoid a recession and improve the lives of millions of people who are already struggling, so why isn’t our government exploring them?
Today’s young people are inheriting a world in crisis. The climate crisis is accelerating, inequality is higher than at any point in history and the gig economy has replaced secure work. We can no longer count on basic necessities like a secure job, stable housing or even medical and mental health care when we need it.
As the threat of a recession grows, young people are understandably worried. If they were already struggling to find a secure job, how much worse will it get if the economy contracts? And when they do find themselves out of work, how will they make ends meet when Newstart and Youth Allowance payments are barely enough to cover rent in our major cities?
While Australia was able to avoid the global recession of 2008, the slow down in the economy still hit young people harder than the rest of the population. According to a report prepared by the Parliamentary Library in 2016 “Young people bore the brunt of softening in the labour market in Australia following the impact of the Global Financial Crisis.” Youth unemployment rose sharply from 8.7% in March 2008 to 11.9% in May 2009. But these impacts aren’t just short term. Youth unemployment continued to rise after the Global Financial Crisis, over a decade later the youth unemployment rate remains at 12.1%. And that’s to say nothing of underemployment.
We need a response from governments that not only protects young people from the worst effects of a recession now, but stabilises our economy and our climate so that we can look forward to the future with confidence.
What could such a response look like? One policy that is gaining popularity inside and outside of Australia is a Jobs Guarantee.
A Jobs Guarantee is exactly what it sounds like: a guaranteed job for anyone who wants one. There is so much good work to be done building stronger, better communities. And there are so many people who want to get to work.
Not only could we keep everyone in work, we would create new jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people who are already unemployed. Even better, this work could respond to real needs in our community.
There are immediate needs such as aged care, construction and education which could all benefit from a Jobs Guarantee. But if a Jobs Guarantee is paired with investment in training and a bold public works program geared towards rapidly reducing emissions in line with what climate scientists tell us is necessary, the long term benefits are almost impossible to measure.
A poll by Unions NSW last year found that 67 percent of Australians already support a jobs guarantee. And it’s already supported by members of The Unemployed Workers Union & GetUp! Young people will jump at the chance to take meaningful, secure work that contributes to the immediate and long term health of their community.
This is all vital work that improves our communities now and into the future. A Jobs Guarantee geared towards solving the biggest challenges facing our country is the best way to both avoid a recession and improve the lives of millions of people all over the country.
But that’s not the stimulus package that we got. The stimulus package announced by Scott Morrison yesterday isn’t about keeping Australians in jobs, as Morrison claimed, it’s about keeping the profits high for his mates in big business.
One of the measures announced yesterday was a tax write-off for businesses who purchase new equipment up to $150,000. If businesses are struggling to pay workers, how are they supposed to make big equipment purchases? There is also the chance that this could lead to long term job losses as businesses use the write-off to invest in technology that reduces their need for labour.
One-off cash payments to people on Newstart is a poor substitute for raising the rate to a liveable level, something that groups like YOUNG Campaigns, ACOSS and the Unemployed Workers Union have been calling on for years.
Young people deserve better than a stimulus package that focuses on bailing out big business. With some long term thinking and brave policy vision, we could build a future that young people can be excited about. We can’t afford to be tentative in the face of the climate and economic crises. Now is the time to get to work building our future.