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NCVER reveals the Covid toll on young Australians and workers

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The COVID-19 pandemic held young Australians back from making their usual transitions into employment according to a new report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The study – Treading water: effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth transitions – examined the lived experiences of young people aged about 20 in 2020, and found potentially disturbing fallout from the then-raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The study shows that typical transitions into employment and permanent or ongoing roles did not occur for a significant proportion of young people.

According to NCVER: “The impact of personal losses and lockdowns, along with a drastically changed global environment, has had a toll on young Australians especially.

“As with all economic downturns, young people have been particularly exposed to unemployment, lost earnings and reduced opportunities for education and social wellbeing.”

Added to this, the pandemic appears to have taken a major toll on young people’s mental health, with nearly one in four 20-year-olds meeting criteria for probable serious mental illness in 2020.

Young people who were female, unemployed, in no type of study, or without social support were particularly vulnerable to mental distress.

For young people hit by the pandemic:

  • Almost one in ten young Australians reported having to move in with their parents or other relatives because of the pandemic
  • Five point four percent reported having to move elsewhere, such as to live with friends or a partner
  • And some young people appeared to ‘retreat’ into higher education, a common strategy during economic uncertainty to increase future earning potential.

Another effect was there was no significant change in the employment rates of young people, when a small increase would have otherwise been expected as young people entered the workforce.

“That no decrease was recorded, despite widespread restrictions, may be attributable to the JobKeeper payment, which kept employees connected with their employers via wage subsidies.

“In 2020, 23.7 percent of 20-year-olds reported they were in receipt of JobKeeper, representing 29.9 percent of those employed.”

The study also found a significant increase of 3.6 percentage points in the youth underemployment rate, compared with a decrease of 3.0 percentage points at the same ages for the previous cohort (2013—14).

“This suggests that the primary effect of the pandemic on youth employment was that young people were unable to work as many hours as they preferred.”

Treading water: effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth transitions can be downloaded here.

Picture: NCVER

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