Australia faces an increase in unemployment rate amidst COVID-19

Written by: Melanie Wong

COVID-19 means that job losses have been tough on everybody and it doesn’t help that Australia is in its first recession in 30 years. While the Australian government has implemented programs such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper, Australia’s unemployment rates have slowly inched upwards. Even though restrictions have been easing nationwide (except for Victoria. Sorry, Victorians!) and industries are starting to open up again, the national unemployment rate rose from 7.1% to 7.5% between May and August, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is the highest unemployment rate in Australia since November 1998.

In Australia, there is an unfair stigma surrounding unemployment as being a result of laziness and something that does not deserve unconditional support. Now, with COVID-19 throwing a spanner in the works, Australia is just one of many countries affected by growing unemployment, but it’s not for lack of trying. In July, 114,700 jobs were created, an unexpectedly high number of jobs that were quickly taken advantage of by the approximately one million unemployed Australians. But experts say that the real rate of unemployment could actually be closer to 10%.

The federal government implemented the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs in March 2020, a recalibration of the previous Newstart Allowance that had been in place since 1991. Before the pandemic, Newstart recipients received only $277.85 a week or $565 a fortnight, an amount that almost doubled to between $1060.80 and $1340.10 per fortnight under JobSeeker, which included a $500 COVID-19 payment. Australia has always operated under system of mutual obligation regarding unemployment benefits, in which individuals must meet certain requirements before becoming recipients, and these unemployment benefits have been accessed by more than one million Australians so far. Both JobSeeker and JobKeeper will be undergoing changes on 28 September, with JobSeeker falling to $815 a fortnight despite some public pushback.

However, there is some good job news. Employment minister Michaela Cash has noted that the easing of restrictions has increased employment hours, despite the overall unemployment rate, and hopes that the continuation of this will improve employment rates. If you’re struggling with unemployment and thinking of accessing government unemployment benefits, here is some extra information.

While most Australians are trying to get used to this new normal, some are struggling more than others. With the pandemic hitting us hard in March, just after the worst bushfire season in living memory, plenty of communities are still getting back on their feet. While the upcoming fire season is predicted to be less severe, this year has been tough on communities affected by both bushfires and the pandemic. If you have the capacity to, check out or donate to some of the organisations that are helping these communities, such as Wildlife Victoria and the NSW RFS. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a regional getaway, consider visiting one of the fire-ravaged towns that usually rely on tourism. If you want to support local businesses, this Instagram page and this Facebook page features a number of regional businesses affected by the fires.

Overall, unemployment rates have been inching upwards for Australians this year, with a terrible summer followed by the mass job losses from COVID-19. It may seem like a pretty bleak year for employment, so remember to check in on your friends and family and access government resources using the links below:

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