Anglicare report finds situation has worsened for older people and long-term unemployed since start of Covid recession
Tue 13 Oct 2020 17.30 BST
Last modified on Tue 13 Oct 2020 18.23 BST
There are now eight disadvantaged jobseekers for every entry-level position across Australia, according to a new report.
Anglicare’s Jobs Snapshot, released on Wednesday, analysed how many jobs were available for people with significant barriers to employment, such as older people and the long-term unemployed.
It found in May there were 7.8 disadvantaged jobseekers for each entry-level position, up from 5.5 last year.
The situation has also worsened across each state and territory. There were 7.8 disadvantaged jobseekers for each suitable job in New South Wales, an increase from five last year, and 6.4 jobseekers per position in Victoria, compared with four last year.
In Tasmania, the ratio increased from 13.9 to 21.
However, the charity warned the ratios were “likely very conservative” because these jobseekers were now competing with many more higher-skilled workers than before the pandemic.
“Even before the recession, people with higher qualifications tended to seek and take employment in lower-skilled jobs,” the report said.
“With such a sharp increase in the number of Australians who have lost work, including a major rise in underemployment, there is little doubt that competition for level five jobs is far more than the ratio suggested by this snapshot’s findings.”
The snapshot compares the number of jobseekers within “stream C” of the jobactive program – which consists of all people with significant barriers to work – with the number of level five positions on the Internet Vacancy Index.
Such jobs generally require no qualifications or experience.
Taking into account everyone in the jobactive program – a total of 1.4m people – there were 106 jobseekers for every entry-level position, Anglicare found.
Although there was a tiny uptick in the number of disadvantaged jobseekers in the jobactive program, Anglicare said its analysis suggested an “influx of people losing work at higher skill levels in this recession”.
The snapshot relies on data from May, when the number of unemployed rose from 704,700 to 923,000 compared with 12 months earlier. The number of underemployed people surged from 1.1m to 1.7m.
Labour force statistics in August showed more than one million people were unemployed, although the jobless rate fell back down to 6.8% last month with the creation of 111,000 jobs.
The report comes amid growing debate about one of the key policies in last week’s budget, a $4bn job subsidy program to encourage employers to hire workers under the age of 35.
Anglicare’s executive director, Kasy Chambers, said many of the jobseekers who were the subject of the charity’s report were “older people who have been left out” of the jobmaker scheme.
Although the opposition and other critics have said the subsidy should be extended to all workers, Anglicare was sceptical it would create meaningful jobs.
Instead, the organisation called for greater public investment in job creation.
The government has said it has focused the jobmaker program on people under 35 due to the scarring effects of long-term unemployment on younger workers. It also says there are existing incentives for employers to hire older workers.
However, groups including Anglicare are increasingly concerned about the employment prospects of older workers, particularly older women, who have become the fastest-growing cohort of long-term jobseeker payment recipients.
Anglicare noted that more than half of all employed surveyed by the government this year said relevant experience was still essential even for lower-skilled vacancies.
“This highlights the catch-22 many people face when trying to get a foothold in the workforce,” the report said.
“This impact is not confined to young people who don’t have experience; older workers who have experience also struggle to get back into the workforce if their previous jobs are not considered relevant, or there has been a significant gap in their work history due to retrenchment, taking on care work, or other major life disruptions.”
Separate analysis of labour force and job vacancy data has shown there are 12 Australians on unemployment payments for every one job vacancy.