Short-term gain, long-term pain for young people
8 October 2020 at 8:16 am
In a special budget edition of our Youth Matters column, Tiana Sixsmith unpacks what the federal budget means for young people.
As we sit in the depths of a recession and a pandemic that has ravaged the lives of people across Australia, the federal government’s recent budget announcement was both uplifting and soul-crushing. Watching the unfolding announcements I couldn’t help but feel that the latest budget prioritised the recovery of businesses and high-income earners, over individuals. If anything, it raises the question of whether short-term solutions are really going to help improve a long-term problem for Australian young people and the future.
The first announcement to note is that of the JobMaker Hiring credit, an incentive seemingly used to encourage businesses to hire young people for up to 12 months. The scheme will see eligible businesses able to claim $200 per week for every employee aged between 16 and 29, hired from now until 6 October 2021. While it’s a welcome sign to see some form of an approach to youth unemployment, the initiative is quick to put businesses in charge of this endeavour. It creates eligibility measures that remain constrictive on young people who have previously been in unsecure work or without previous access to welfare benefits. Recipients must have received some form of income payment such as JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or Parenting Payment up to three months before they are hired – a boundary that leaves young people in uncertain circumstances and ignores the thousands of young people unable to receive these benefits.
The short-term, 12-month solution does not feel like an adequate measure to keep young people in stable employment. Increasing welfare payments so that young people can live above the poverty line should be a priority. However, the inclusion of $1.5 billion for the JobTrainer program – which will see 50 per cent wage subsidies for over 300,000 apprentices and trainees – has the potential to help support many young people moving into further employment. As long as it can be ensured that young people won’t be exploited through these measures, and that when the initiative ends young people don’t find themselves unemployed again, this will be a good initiative towards a youth unemployment solution.
The latest installment of tax cuts were hailed as the government’s big ticket stimulus initiative. Although tax breaks will be a welcome support package for businesses struggling during the pandemic, it fails to recognise or produce viable solutions for those who are unemployed and will not earn a substantial, taxable income. The main beneficiaries of these initiatives continue to be the wealthy, and I worry that a top-down approach to boosting our economy leaves those who are already below the line, further behind.
In a brilliant turn of events, the government instituted substantial funding into healthcare with a record $115.5 billion introduced for the 2020-21 budget. Within this, $5.7 billion was included for mental health support with the doubling of medicare-funded psychological services from 10 to 20 sessions. This support is welcomed, but it can be noted that parts of the budget, namely parts focusing on unemployment and financial security, will still play a key part in the continuous uphill battle against rising ill mental health. This reinforces the dire need to raise the base-rate for payments such as JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and more.
While the issues of the gas-led recovery have been hotly debated these past few weeks, the budget continues to promote fossil fuel investment and perpetuate increasingly cataclysmic consequences from climate change. Whilst funding for recycling infrastructure, ocean health and further investment announcements planned following the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements are welcome, a lack of investment in the transition towards renewables, the jobs of the future and our planet’s future was missed in this announcement.
Young people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. While the budget brought some inkling of hope, a lack of long-term solutions means that our future continues to be at stake. With the oncoming impacts of climate change, university fee hikes and unsustainable youth unemployment packages rife with hurdles, I worry personally about what the next few years hold for me and the people around me. We need politicians who are prepared to put in the hard yards to secure a future for generations to come and unfortunately, this budget barely scrapes the surface.
What can solve these issues? Greater youth representation in parliament. A co-design approach to policies for young people. And maybe, just maybe, listening to what we have to say.
About the author: Tiana Sixsmith, 21, is a Youth Affairs Council of Victoria member, Victorian Youth Congress member and Monash University student. She is passionate about politics, youth advocacy and sustainable futures.
This article is part of a monthly series, Youth Matters, a collaboration between Youth Affairs Council Victoria and Pro Bono Australia to inject the voices of young people into the social change sector.