Politics

The Government Is Using The Budget To Fuck Over Young And Unemployed People

Right now, there is a whole generation of young people who just have no guarantee of sustainable and safe employment.

federal budget

The Australian Federal Budget has been released, and things aren’t looking great for young people.

Not gonna lie, it is nice to see the government mention young people for once, but when you look beneath the surface (surprise!) things are not as great as they seem.

The two biggest budget announcements that affect young people are the JobMaker hiring credit and the JobTrainer apprenticeships scheme. These are both conveniently timed to end right after the mooted election date of September 2021.

Right now, there is a whole generation of young people who just have no guarantee of sustainable and safe employment, and none of the budget announcements are designed to fix that.

In short, the budget fucks over anyone who’s in a shitty job, looking for a job, or hoping to go to uni — which is a pretty good description of most young people.

JobMaker – A Subsidy For Bosses That’s Supposed To Look Like A Handout To Workers

The government’s proposed JobMaker hiring scheme is just a recipe for churning young people through a variety of shitty, low paid jobs that won’t last.

The government will give businesses $200 a week for every person under the age of 30 they hire. If the employee is between 30 and 35, they’ll only hand over $100. There’s no subsidy for older folks, which creates a whole other problem for people at risk of long term unemployment.

Oh, and if you’re doing 20 hours a week on minimum wage? You’ll be earning so little that you’ll still be able to get an unemployment payment — what sort of job is that?

There are no rules to make sure employers create permanent or sustainable jobs. It’s due to end in a year, when we know the economic recovery won’t even be close to over.

Cue Coles and Woolies lining up to fill every 40-hour-per-week minimum wage job with two people on 20 hours a week — that $400 will trickle straight up to their shareholders’ pockets.

We’re grateful for anything at all that will help people get into paid work, and we hope there will be at least some sustainable jobs created, but this subsidy does nothing to address the structural problems that were keeping young people locked out of the job market long before the pandemic.

Meaningful support to get young people into work needs to last longer than 12 months.

JobTrainer Apprenticeships

There’s been a lot of fanfare about the $1.2 billion being spent to create 100,000 apprenticeships by subsidising employers to the tune of $28,000 per year for each apprentice they take on.

But 100,000 people is a drop in the ocean, when by Christmas 1.8 million of us are going to be surviving on a poverty payment.

And according to the Victorian Trades Hall Council we’ve just lost 140,000 apprenticeships — so the government is basically crowing about negative 40,000 apprentices.

With a one year limit on those subsidies, we’d like to know what the plan is to make sure that employers don’t bank the year of cheap labour and then leave people high and dry before they get a qualification.

How many employers are going to be able to pay for the second, third, and fourth year of training while we’re still in a recession?

Unemployment Will Get Worse … And Then Slightly Better?

The Treasurer confirmed the unemployment rate will keep going up, to about 8 percent by Christmas. That’s bad. But even worse? His “ambition” is to get it down to below 6 percent.

That means the government is writing off a million people.

So, we’re headed for 8 percent unemployment, and there’s already 18 percent underemployment now. That’s millions of people looking for a job on top of the one million who don’t have any paid work at all.

But don’t worry folks, there were 116,000 jobs advertised on SEEK on October 6 (a reduction of 1 percent or 1,177 on the previous week) so things are looking swell.

So far, of the ‘new jobs’ that have come back since May, only 10 percent are full-time. That’s a measly 44,000 jobs. Hard to see how we’re going to get enough good jobs for everyone if that trend continues, especially if they keep coming up with new and innovative ways to reward employers for creating short-term casual work.

So, if the goal is to get unemployment to 6 percent, what message does that send to unemployed people?

It’s still a million people living on half the poverty line, being subjected to the brutality of job agencies, forced to do pointless activities that are supposed to get us work-ready and fail to do so, all for literally nothing.

They’ve openly said they have no intention of making sure that one million people can have secure employment, a decent life, or even just the ability to plan for the future.

For many of us it means we’ll never have the opportunity to plan for a family, buying a house — or just planning for anything at all, really.

The government is saying that a million of us just don’t deserve to have what most people expect from life.

No Increase In The JobSeeker Or Youth Allowance Payment

It’s hard to imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t know that unemployment payments force people into grinding poverty.

But just in case you forgot: 8 out of 10 people on JobSeeker regularly skip meals, and 60 percent of people on a payment who also get rent assistance are in housing stress. Just trying to survive on these payments makes you less employable.

At the moment there is still a small Coronavirus supplement in place, which means people on JobSeeker are getting $815.70 per fortnight. That’s due to be slashed again in January, back to $565.70, or about half the poverty line.

Even though he told us that there will be 1.8 million people on unemployment payments by December, the Treasurer said he can’t make a decision about whether he’ll really cut the rate again until later, when he hopes to have a better sense of the “labour market dynamics”.

We need job security, and until we get that, we need to not live in poverty.

Mental Health

We didn’t get an announcement about making unemployment payments liveable, but the government will double the number of subsidised sessions you can get under your mental health plan, from ten to twenty.

The elephant in the room is suicide. The Prime Minister says reducing suicide rates is a top priority — but he failed to put his money where his mouth is. Both younger people and unemployed people have significantly higher suicide and self-harm risk.

After the GFC, suicide rates spiked by 22 percent for unemployed men and 12 percent for unemployed women, but countries that have more generous welfare schemes had lower increases in suicide.

Putting aside the fact that they probably can’t just conjure up enough doctors to actually provide double the number of sessions, we know that access to support is just a band-aid.

Extra mental health support is good, but it’s not going to solve a mental health crisis. Most people just need to be able to afford the basics. Money directly in pockets is the surest way to keep people safe and well.

Even worse? If you’re on the NDIS this actually means you could pay more. Some NDIS participants already pay a gap on 10 sessions per year through Medicare, and now they’ll be paying double that.

Is There Anything Nice To Say?

Look we tried hard to find a silver lining. I guess we can be grateful that at this stage no one’s going to be forced to go and pick fruit.


Kristin O’Connell is an anti poverty activist and volunteer with the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, living and working on stolen Gadigal land. Follow her work via @ausunemployment and @kristin8x.