22 March 2021
History tells us that young people are often the most vulnerable to economic shocks. While older generations are often better prepared to weather a weak labour market through alternative sources of income, younger generations have not had the luxury of time to accrue an equivalent security nest egg. During COVID, the hospitality, arts, retail and recreation industries, which collectively employ 45 per cent of young people were the first hit and they were the worst hit. Job losses in these sectors were exacerbated by the fact that more than half of hospitality staff and over one-third of retail, arts and recreation employees are casuals and were thus excluded from receiving JobKeeper altogether.
In my policy paper published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, I discussed the urgent need to evaluate the scarring effects of an economic recession on the youth labour market and to develop appropriately adapted labour market interventions to address the widening ravine of outcomes. I warned that, if we did not take action to prevent youth labour market scarring, the time-honoured covenant of generation-on-generation progress would be under threat and that existing intergenerational inequality would only widen.
Enter stage right the JobMaker hiring credit, the newest addition to the Morrison government's suite of rhyming marketing slogans designed to tackle record-low youth unemployment. JobMaker was a $4 billion hiring credit that was supposed to encourage employers to create new jobs for young people. So far so good. The details of this scheme immediately raised a few red flags, though. Wouldn't this credit create a Hunger Games style job market, which would pit older and younger workers against each other? What would stop an employer from sacking an older worker who works 40 hours a week and hiring two young people to work 20 hours a week each? Wouldn't this just increase rampant underemployment of young people and unemployment of older people?
Labor weren't alone in our apprehension of the scheme. The Treasury also had some concerns, suggesting that the JobMaker hiring credit would create only 45,000 new jobs and that most of these jobs would have been created without the subsidy in the first place. Treasury documents also revealed that the scheme would allow an employer to sack a full-time worker over 35 in order to get more hours out of multiple part-time workers, at no extra cost. However, never letting the truth get in the way of a good announcement, the Morrison government persisted.
With the benefit of hindsight, I now realise that Labor and the Treasury had overlooked one key issue—that is, the Morrison government's inability to effectively implement any policy beyond the announcement. It turns out that the JobMaker hiring credit hasn't hurt older workers and hasn't boosted underemployment amongst younger workers because it hasn't actually done anything at all. The JobMaker scheme has created just 521 new jobs, with approximately $800,000 invested. That's 0.1 per cent of jobs promised and 0.02 per cent invested. It is so comical it almost feels like an episode of Utopia playing out.
The Treasurer suggested that the federal government was looking to overhaul the plan on the weekend, citing better than expected unemployment rates in February. He stated that the unemployment rate had fallen from 6.3 per cent to 5.8 per cent. That sounds great, and is technically true, but it doesn't accurately reflect youth unemployment, which this program was supposed to support. When you break unemployment down by age category it tells a much different story. The truth is that the youth unemployment rate is still higher than it was a year ago, by 109,000 people. Youth unemployment is at 12.9 per cent. There are currently 805,200 young people unemployed in Australia. For the Treasurer to say that the JobMaker scheme hasn't worked because unemployment is doing too well isn't spin; it is a flat-out lie. Right now we have a whole generation of young people who have no guarantee of sustainable or secure employment.
Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the top issue that kept millennials and gen Z awake at night was the welfare of their family before subsequent concerns about career prospects and their long-term financial future. What started as a funny joke from the Betoota Advocate is now no longer funny to millions of young Australians who need more than an announcement in high-vis and a hard hat from Scotty from Marketing in order to pay their bills. Young people need a comprehensive plan that ensures that all Australians can look forward to a future that offers secure, decent jobs and a vibrant future for their families and their communities. This week I'll be leading by example and seeking leave to table the Lilley 2021-22 budget submission, which will improve the lives of northsiders by creating real jobs if implemented.
As for JobTrainer, I'd first like to point out an error in the member for Longman's motion. It isn't the government's $1 billion JobTrainer Fund. The federal government are contributing half of that—$500 million—while the states and territories are kicking in the remaining $500 million. It is a crisis of the federal government's own design. Since 2013 they've cut $3 billion from the TAFE and training budget and short-changed TAFE.