This election Australian young people are enrolled to vote in higher numbers than ever before and we’re paying attention.
With youth unemployment still stubbornly high and hovering at 11.7%, we need government action that will set our generation up to find stable, secure and purposeful employment and support us to survive when we can’t get it.
It’s well past time to raise Newstart and Youth Allowance
While living costs have skyrocketed, Newstart and Youth Allowance support payments haven’t increased in real terms in 24 years. This means that while the payment has increased with inflation, it hasn’t kept up with living costs and young people are effectively being paid less than they were in 1995. That makes it pretty tough to find work or complete your studies when you can’t meet your basic needs.
What I want: Young people (and allies across the social sector) are calling for an emergency increase of $75 a week to Newstart and Youth Allowance payments, with a view to set annual increases sufficient to ensure people are living above the poverty line.
Restore penalty rates
A lot has changed over the years, but working on the weekend still sucks. It takes time away from your friends, family, studies and mental health. People working on the weekend deserve to be paid penalty rates and in fact, many rely on it to survive. But in 2017 the Coalition government cut weekend and public holiday rates for people working in the hospitality and retail sectors—the biggest employers of young people.
What I want: Young people are calling for an end to this wage theft and to reverse the cuts.
More apprenticeships and training
Both major parties have figured out that announcing apprenticeships is a sweet vote-winner, so now it’s a numbers race with the Australian Labor Party (ALP) pledging to create 150,000 additional apprentice incentives in areas of skill shortages, and the Coalition pledging 80,000 new apprenticeships by 2024. The ALP has also promised to reform Australia’s TAFE system more broadly, investing $200 million in training facilities with a focus on supporting quality regional campuses. Earlier this year the Coalition delivered findings from the Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training system that it launched in 2018. The findings were widely deemed comprehensive and capable of delivering significant improvements to the sector.
What I want: Young people want to see more access to training and paid work opportunities in industries of the future.
Make job-seeking schemes work better for people seeking jobs
Australian federal governments have trialled a range of initiatives to support young people finding work. One of those in the Jobactive program. Jobactive pays employers for placing people into jobs, however, young people are often placed into insecure or short-term roles, providing minimal long-term employment support. Ahead of the election, the Coalition has committed to expanding this policy while the ALP is yet to confirm their position.
What I want: While young people do want to see job creation schemes and programs that help young people find work, these need to be centred on the real needs of the people seeking employment.
A government that takes our future seriously
While this article can act as a quick shopping list of things to look out for in the youth employment space in the lead up to polling day, what young people actually want is transformative change that shows the government is taking our future seriously.
Young people today are structural thinkers. We see how short-sighted economic policies have punished young workers, and people trying to get an education and a good start in life.
We won’t accept that we have to choose between a job-rich economy and a safe and liveable planet.
We want all parties and candidates to present us with a vision that will reverse these trends and actually put young people and our future first.
Cat is a co-founder of youth campaigning organisation YOUNG, who campaign for economic justice by organising and mobilising young people to call out systemic inequality. She also works as a climate campaigner at Environment Victoria, growing the movement for a safe climate and a just transition in Victoria.