’One of the lucky ones’: Fears 3500 Gympie jobs lost
DAVID Bland said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was swift and acute – his income was slashed in half.
And still, the Empire Hotel employee considered himself “one of the lucky ones”.
“I was saving for a house (over the past two years),” Mr Bland said, adding it took about a month for his Centrelink application to be approved.
“It’s a little bit sad to see everything you’ve worked for start to go down instead of increasing.”
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Unfortunately Mr Bland’s story is not unique, and a new report by the Grattan Institute has given the first glance at the economic wreckage.
The report, revealed this week, said 40 per cent of Australia’s 15-19-year-old workforce was expected to lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Another 30 per cent of the 20-29 age group will also be forced into unemployment.
If those rates hold for the Gympie region, more than 1500 of the region’s 5100 workers aged 15-34 were left jobless by the crisis.
But the pain does not stop there.
A quarter of the 40-69 workforce is also forecast to be out of work; this would be more than 2000 Gympie workers, meaning the total fallout could be more than 3500 jobs lost.
The hospitality industry took the biggest hit, with about 60 per cent of jobs predicted lost.
Mr Bland himself had been “stood down” as pubs, hotels and restaurants were forced to close their doors due to social-distancing rules.
There was no official return date in sight, though.
He said the notice had one “but (who knows) whether or not that’s accurate for what the Government has planned”.
Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman said the economic and employment carnage was “gut wrenching”.
“We’re going to have a lot of unemployment as it keeps going on,” Mr Goodman said.
He said governments were doing the best they could, but the stimulus packages were really more “survival” packages to “get people to the other side”.
Once there, the hope was people would begin to shop locally.
But that was still at the behest of whether people felt comfortable going out to shop.
“(The open air) Mary St would have to be a safe precinct,” he said.
A consistent message that it was safe to shop was also needed – one with more cohesion than had been blared in the past few weeks, which had been “stay at home, stay at home, and – emphatically – stay at home”.
“The message is conflicting and putting the wind up a lot of people.”
It had even prompted his own “moral dilemma” over whether to stay open, and he was glad authorities had tried to clear it up with the message “as long as that service is open for business, you’re allowed to go in there” – provided shoppers continue social and physical distancing and good hygiene.