It’s no secret coronavirus’ impact on the Australian job market has been severe. Unemployment rates have plummeted to record lows and fewer jobs are available as an increasing number of services and venues close down. New data shows it’s affecting the country’s 900,000 unemployed from actively looking for work.
Researchers at Australia National University’ have released findings that indicate job seekers actively looking for work increased by 0.6 per cent to 7.4 per cent between February and May. However, the figures showed there was also an increase of 2.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent for those unemployed and not actively looking for work.
“There was not a significant increase in the number of people who said they were unemployed and actively looking for work,” Professor Biddle, a co-author on the paper, said in a media release.
“But there was a large increase in the number of people who said they were unemployed but not actively looking for work.
“This fits with the idea of ‘discouraged workers’ — those who want to work but think there are not any suitable jobs available.”
When split by gender, the data showed it disproportionately affected the female working population. It indicated women who had fallen out of employment in February were twice as likely to not be actively looking for work by May compared to male counterparts. This affected 13.8 per cent of women compared to men at 5.7 per cent.
“While this latter difference is not statistically significant (p-value = 0.223), it does give some indication that females are less confident in obtaining employment than males if they have lost their job, or less able to actively look for work,” the paper read.
The reason behind this, the researchers say, is because women are more likely to have taken on traditional housework duties while men who had done the same were looking to re-enter the workforce as soon as possible.
“Females who stopped working were almost three times as likely to have taken on caring and housework roles, and were also more likely to have stopped looking for work,” Professor Biddle said.
“Males, on the other hand, appear to be slightly more likely to have moved into educational or home schooling roles, and are far more likely to be still actively seeking work.”
Overwhelming numbers of applicants per job is discouraging
There are many reasons portions of the workforce could be discouraged from actively seeking employment — especially in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.
At the end of June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed job vacancies had dropped 43 per cent in the May 2020 quarter, registered as the worst in Australia’s history.
This coupled with the increasing number of unemployed Australians would create the perfect storm for dire job seeking prospects.
Response to job application for one customer service job – sorry, we have had 2,851 applications … pic.twitter.com/zAAisu4Lt8
— ????Michael West (@MichaelWestBiz) July 6, 2020
Indeed economist Charlie Pickering told Lifehacker Australia at the time that it meant competition for jobs was increasingly more difficult.
While June had shown some improvements, strain on certain industries made job seeking a seemingly unattainable goal. For example, high unemployment and low job vacancy in the arts sector could mean there are nearly 1,000 people per single job ad.
“With employment in that sector falling by 88,000 people or 35 per cent due to COVID-19 — in addition to 10,000 people from the sector already unemployed before COVID-19 — we are looking at around 980 unemployed people per job vacancy,” Pickering said.
“That is by far the highest rate among industries.”
With the coronavirus supplement and JobKeeper arrangements expected to expire by September, it’s likely to become a more desperate situation for Australians struggling to make ends meet. Pickering said if the state of job vacancies didn’t improve considerably and soon, it would make little sense to remove the schemes so many Australians are relying on.
“It is a simple maths equation: there simply aren’t enough jobs right now — even with the recent improvement — for everyone who wants a job to get one,” Pickering said.
“If vacancies remain below pre-crisis levels by September then pulling fiscal support would be misguided. It’ll damage and undermine the efforts made to protect the economy throughout the crisis.”
Until an announcement is made, however, it’s just a matter of waiting and hoping.