The topic of youth unemployment was a big one at the first 2022 Election debate; so how is the COVID-19 fiscal debt going to affect future generations? (Image source: Peace Child International)

By Alexandra Bull | @ally_bull19

In January 2021, the youth unemployment rate, with youth being those aged 15-24 years old, was 15 per cent in South Australia. This is up from 14 per cent in the previous year and above the 14.4 per cent recorded nationally.

In June 2020, the rate of youth unemployment hit a national all-time high of 16.4 per cent, because of the economic recession caused by COVID-19.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in March 2021 the Australian youth unemployment rate was 11.8 per cent, down 1.1 points.

Some of the causes of youth unemployment include: fiscal crisis, skills mismatch and lack of education, just to name a few.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the unemployment rate in Australia, as well as many other financial aspects and with the loss of Job Keeper in late March, the unemployment rate is only expected to get worse.

Approximately 150,000 jobs are at risk with the ending of the payment scheme, which would only add to the growing number of South Australian youths without employment.

Unemployment and the effects of the fiscal response to COVID-19 were just some of the topics discussed between Premier Steven Marshall and Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas in the first of a series of election debates held in early April, leading up to the 2022 State Election.

With the number of unemployed youths expected to rise, it was no wonder this was a major topic covered.

The debate moderator, journalist Tory Shepard, was armed with questions everybody wanted the answers to, starting with a question for Premier Steven Marshall about the debt future generations will be inheriting.

“I think what we’ve needed to do is to really balance up what the alternatives are. On the one hand we could have said, ‘well, no, we’re going to be fiscally prudent. We’re not going to support these businesses, these individuals, at their time of need,’” Premier Marshall said.

“We have had fiscal prudence in Australia over a long period of time, liberal governments, coalition governments, labor governments, and so we have been in a unique position where the Australian government can actually support people in this bridge over the coronavirus,” he added.

Premier Marshall made the point that there have been some countries who have been on the back foot of trying to essentially just pay for immediate health budget requirements.

“We’ve been able to fully fund, as well as make sure that we can have adequate and appropriate short-term stimulus and support to get as many people over the bridge as possible,” he said.

“When we look at our performance as a country, compared to virtually any other country in the world, we’ve done really well but that doesn’t mean to say that the stimulus and support is over.

There is still a lot to be done but I think you’re right, the fiscal response in Australia has been turned upside down, but we’ve been able to make that response because of the fiscal prudence that we’ve had over a long period of time,” he said.

However well South Australia responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not deter the fact the debt created will be one that will affect many generations to come.

A question directed to Opposition Leader Mr Malinauskas addressed the topic of whether future generations will resent what has happened throughout this pandemic in terms of the budget and deficits. Mr Malinauskas was very clear with his answer.

“I think future generations want jobs, we have the worst youth unemployment rate in the country by a very substantial margin,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“That’s what young people are looking for, the opportunity to work and work here,” he added.

The topic of the debt that future generations will be inheriting was strong on Mr Malinauskas’ mind, enlightening everyone in the room on the debt to revenue ratio of South Australia at the moment.

“Steven Marshall when he came to government, inherited a state general government debt of $5.4 billion dollars, the debt to revenue ratio when he came to office was 28 per cent, and now the debt to revenue estimates goes out to 104 per cent.”

It may have been a little off topic in terms of youth unemployment, but Peter Malinauskas made the point that this is the debt future generations will be inheriting, making it hard to curb the growing youth unemployment rate.

While COVID-19 will continue to affect the youth unemployment rate, there are some solutions such as skills matching and more training programs for people leaving school that may assist young people in finding jobs in South Australia.

There was talk at the debate of the Marshall government handing out 33,000 new traineeships and apprenticeships to counter the skills gap. The success of roll outs of this kind assisting South Australia’s current youth unemployment in the lead up to the election remains to be seen.