We can’t impact on the supply of jobs. What we can do is help people become more competitive for jobs that do exist and to work with them to optimise their sense of hope. This is an obligation of human solidarity.

Over 715,000 (5.2%) of our fellow Australians were unemployed at the end of July 2019. In addition, we had an underemployment rate of 8.4% (1,155,969 people). Of course, many under-employed people are not working full-time by choice. What we do know is that not all Australians are enjoying the full economic fruits that a job affords and they are suffering as a result.

The first impact of unemployment is poverty.

A 2016 report from Australia’s peak welfare body – the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) indicated that 2.9 million people in Australia are living under the poverty line. This includes all jobless Australians.

Impacts on Health

When a person loses their job, not only do they lose their usual source of income and the basic things it can buy – like rent, transport, food and recreation costs, but they also lose important personal work relationships, daily structures and an important sense of self-worth.

Unemployment is often a shock to the whole system. As a result, many people facing this situation face quite severe mental health impacts – most often associated with depression and anxiety.

Impact on Housing Affordability

Anglicare Australia’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot (April 2019) found that of over 69,000 private rental listings across the country over one sample weekend, no properties in any capital city were affordable for a single person on Youth Allowance or Newstart.

In fact, there were only two properties across the entire country that were affordable for people on these payments.

The Longer the Period of Joblessness, the Greater the Impacts

The longer a person is unemployed, the greater challenges they face in gaining employment and the worse the financial and health impacts of unemployment. This becomes worse for older people.

The Curse of Mature Aged Unemployment

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) notes:

At June 2017, there were around 251,400 people aged 50 or over receiving Newstart Allowance including 195,000 who have been on income support for 12 months or over.

On average, this total group is expected to receive income support for some or all of 26 years over the rest of their lives.

Fifty-six per cent are expected to receive income support for some or all of every year for the rest of their lives. If current trends continue, 75 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 10 years, and 74 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 20 years.

Our Nation’s Challenge – to work to end this suffering!