It’s hard to get excited when the Federal Budget rolls around, given I’ve only ever associated this day with mild irritation or full-blown lava rage.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen some doozies emerge at budget time: $65 billion tax cuts to big business, foreign aid whittled down to nothing, Gonski funding AWOL, climate funding cut, immigration at a standstill– you catch my drift.
And, on a micro level, Australia’s youth continue to be major, major suckers.
Right now, the wealth gap between millennials and baby-boomers is at a record high. According to the Generation Stalled report, commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence last year, almost one third of Australia’s youth are unemployed. For those who are unable to gain a tertiary qualification, the outlook is particularly grim. They’re often left scrambling to keep up with the fast pace of modern work expectations.
But I’m not sure there’s ever been a greater example of Catch-22.
Because, going to university isn’t a realistic proposition for many young people, particularly those with only Government financial support. “Living under the poverty line, it’s rising,” Melbourne University student, Molly Willmott told ABC News last year. “We’re lucky we’ve got places on campus that run foodbanks to help students in dire straits. They just stock noodles and you can take as much as you need.”
Last night on Q&A, a debate erupted around the fairness of Government Newstart payments to the unemployed. Currently, the payments sit at just below $40 a day. Yep, $40 a day to cover utilities, education costs, rent, food, toiletries and everything else. Liberal MP, Tim Wilson suggested that he could do it. I would venture to guess, he’s lying through his teeth.
Yet, many young people attempt to live off Newstart or Youth Allowance, while studying. When the struggle gets too much (which it inevitably does) they drop-out. That’s the bottom line.
And, another clincher is this: No matter how many uni degrees a person is able to acquire, their chances of being able to afford a house in any major city on a single income, is slim to none.
According to recent research conducted by Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) The difference in wealth between older generations and younger ones is “very much connected to what’s going on in the housing market.” For those under-40, home ownership has plummeted from 36 per cent to 25 per cent since 2002.
Last year’s budget, did very little to address this issue. According to Richard Holden, Professor of Economics at UNSW, the Government’s measures amounted to little more than “tinkering”. In essence, there was a total absence of measures to address negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax exemptions for rental properties, which would have levelled the playing field considerably for first home buyers.
A report from the Intergenerational Commission in the UK today, insists urgent help is needed for young people who remain at a financial disadvantage to previous generations. The report suggested the introduction of a ‘Citizen’s Inheritance’ — a £10k subsidy to be paid to all means-tested citizens at the age of 25. The ‘inheritance’ would only cover costs of housing, education or starting a business.
This is a pretty dramatic proposition, but at least it’s an attempt to address the issue. Young people in Australia deserve the same consideration.
If the Government lays out any meaningful funding today to combat youth unemployment, tertiary/training costs, or housing affordability I’ll be the first to tip my hat.
But let’s just say, I’m not holding my breath.