JobKeeper: Need to identify unique value in competitive job market

Key to finding employment now JobKeeper has ended

JobKeeper has been the biggest fiscal package in history and the security net has caught 3.5m Australian workers, with one million Australians still benefitting from it during the second extension.

Despite the $90b price tag, this makes it something of a saviour to our economy, with the unemployment rate only hitting 7.68 per cent at its peak in 2020: it's been money well spent.

But, all good things must come to an end, and as of Sunday night, JobKeeper has proven to be no exception.

So what now?

The Treasury Secretary told a Senate Estimates hearing that we could be looking at job losses of up to 150,000 over the next couple of months as businesses feel the sting of the JobKeeper bandaid being ripped off.

However, interestingly, the Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg told Today that retaining JobKeeper would "hurt" employment prospects by "stopping workers moving to more productive roles," and as such, he believes that ending JobKeeper is actually necessary for the benefit of workers, regardless of the estimated job losses believed to be coming, according to the Department of Treasury.

Quite the curious contradiction, no?

Recently, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's Victorian chief of operations, Warren Day spoke to the ABC to share tips on managing financial problems.

His words of wisdom regarding penny pinching on unnecessary spending, looking at whether there is relief to be had on mortgages, rent, utilities and debt.

Looking at where you can save is vital to navigating troubled financial waters, but if you don't have any income coming in because you've lost your job and you aren't flush with a savings account, then penny pinching on cable tv bills isn't going to put food on the table.

The job losses are expected to hit the most disadvantaged parts of our communities.

Data analysis regarding employment outcomes for different LGAs in Sydney and Melbourne have shown that the poorer regions were badly hit during COVID, and thus are more likely to suffer with the recent JobKeeper loss in struggling areas.

These people aren't strangers to penny-pinching, but without the pennies to pinch, what do they do?

The government has introduced targeted "rescue" packages for industries like tourism and other specific assistance for businesses to try and address the job loss risks, but putting money into industry to try and improve business outcomes that will eventually bring the jobs back, while throwing people who have lost their JobKeeper jobs under the metaphorical JobSeeker bus to try and live below the poverty line on the pittance that offers, is a blow that no amount of political spin can cover up.

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Each of those 150k people who are estimated to lose their jobs in the coming weeks has a belly to fill and a roof to pay for, with many of them also having families to provide for.

They aren't just numbers on a page that can be shifted from column to column over six months to be called a political win: people fall through the gaps in the spreadsheets.

So, what do we do?

Without being able to rely on the government anymore to ensure that we don't fall through the cracks, we need to rely on ourselves.

Many people believe that this is what people should be doing all along, and in an ideal world they would be right, but when there aren't enough jobs for everyone, that becomes challenging, because it doesn't matter how hard you pull on those bootstraps, you can't pull yourself up by them if they keep snapping.

In a competitive job market, we need to identify our unique value - what do we bring that others don't? How can we use the skills that we have in other roles, other industries? What can we study (and what study support is available for us?) to make us an attractive candidate?

We need to sit down and work out a plan of attack with options that weigh up our minimum requirements with the available opportunities.

It can feel challenging and overwhelming, but in this climate, we need to get creative.

And businesses with vacancies need to think laterally about their hiring decisions and not just hire the same old same old, but actually look at the labour market and see what value people offer that perhaps you hadn't considered before.

Afterall, maybe you have to "have a go to get a go," but someone also needs to give you a go.