Graduating into a COVID-19 Recession: Young Australians left behind

While finishing my third and final year of university, I completed an internship with The Australian Marketing Institute. The remote internship, where I connected with my mentor over Zoom was an amazing opportunity. It opened my eyes to the world I would be graduating into. It also led me to research the economic impact COVID-19 would have on me and my peers, set to graduate at the end of 2020. This year has meant many changes for everyone, I write this piece acknowledging how lucky I am to have the opportunities I have. However, it has made me realise that Young Australians, and particularly women will be affected by the economic impacts long after this year is over. 

A COVID-19 Graduate

The realisation that I will be graduating into a recession, seems to only now sink in as Victoria, the state in which I live, work and study goes into its second lockdown. Graduating my Bachelor Degree in Communications (Public Relations) at RMIT at the end of this year, was once something I looked forward to, with the prospect of entering the workforce as a graduate, an exciting experience. However, as every day of my last semester at university passes, I become more nervous about entering a workforce that has an unemployment rate of 7.4% (ABS data) and an even higher unemployment rate if you’re aged between 15-24 at 16.4%.

Across Australia, it’s fair to say to some extent, everyone will be impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19. But these effects have not been uniformly felt, according to the Research Insight, HILDA survey by the Melbourne Institute of Research and Melbourne University. It recognises two key insights, this being the industries hit hardest with those in casual or short term casual work and those belonging to those worst affected industries being women and adolescents.

Young Australians aged 15-24, with over a third being women (ABS) make up more than half of those employed on a casual basis compared with 18 percent for all other age groups (ANZ & ABS data)

The COVID-19 lockdown measures have meant many young Australian’s have lost their casual employment. With 60% of 18 to 24-year-olds having lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or had their pay cut over the past six weeks, this compares to 40% for all Australians (ANU study). The industry profile shows that a large majority of these young people are working casually to balance their full time or part-time study. ABS data showing just under a third of casual workers were either dependent students or non-dependent children.

The younger generation who have been affected by these job cuts were likely to be like me, finishing up their studies and wanting to enter the workforce. The risk is that this generation will not be able to find jobs after finishing their degrees, missing out on the skills and experience that come in the early stages of creating your career.

During periods of longer unemployment, according to The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), people’s skills and productivity deteriorate and they become less and less employable. In a workforce with Cyclical unemployment, young people are likely to be subject to long-lasting social effects including reduced life expectancy and a higher likelihood of relationship breakdowns.

The current advice from the Government and experts is for young people to up-skill and look for work in areas such as health, mental health, aged care, and trades. Unfortunately, so many young Australians are already too far along in their study process, or like me are finishing up their degree (online I might add, at no lesser cost) in 2020. A degree that if proposed reforms are passed, will rise in price by 113% next year in hopes to push prospective students into ‘job-relevant’ degrees.

Young people across Australia, with a larger proportion of those affected being women, are likely to be subject to the long term and short effects of this global economic crisis.

The Covid-19 crisis has meant many young people have lost their casual employment. In a women-dominated industry such as marketing and communications where ‘experience’ is paramount, but you have to gain experience to get experience, there is a high risk that a whole generation of highly-skilled, degree equipped young people getting left behind.

It is more important than ever for employers now to connect with young job-seekers and ensure that policymakers are implementing stimulus packages and education and training programs to tackle the adverse effects of COVID-19 on young Australians. My hope in 2021, is that I step into a workforce that supports this young vulnerable generation that will become the future. Helping us now means helping Australia long term, in a post-COVID-19 world. 



Isabella Murray is currently studying full time completing her Bachelor in Communication (Public Relations) at RMIT University. On top of this Bella works part-time in the hospitality industry and has recently completed a 3-month internship at the Australian Marketing Institute.




To access the Research Insight, HILDA survey by the Melbourne Institute of Research and Melbourne University follow the prompts on this link. AMI Members can also access the full report in the AMI Content Library.

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