October 7, 2020
“I’ve been looking for work for a while. I finally got offered a job right before the lockdown and pandemic actually happened. I worked for 3 days before everything shut it down… Because I was only doing trial shifts technically I’m not in the system so there probably won’t be a job for me when they re-open.” ~ Young woman
Ref: Centre for Multicultural Youth (2020), Locked down and locked out? The impact of COVID-19 on employment for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in Victoria, Melbourne, CMY, page 12.
Economic inclusion is a vital element of Victoria’s COVID recovery work and an area of priority for HealthWest. The necessary restrictions to slow the spread of the virus have had a devastating impact on current employment. But it will also create an ongoing risk factor for health in the coming years, since we know that employment and work conditions are linked with individual’s health status.
Melbourne’s west has not only been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 transmission, but also by job losses. Around 11% of the population aged 15-64 in HealthWest’s catchment were recipients of JobSeeker or Youth Allowance in August, compared with 9% for Greater Melbourne. There is also growing evidence that young people, women and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have experienced more job losses than others.
While unemployment figures are a concern for the future health of people in Melbourne’s west, we also know that the type of work that people have access to is important for health. Patterns of COVID transmission in Melbourne have made this abundantly clear. There is evidence emerging around the types of work that people commonly hold in the western suburbs leading to higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Building on previous work in Workforce Mutuality, as well as exploration of economic inclusion as a priority with our partners in 2019, HealthWest is making a contribution to economic inclusion through community conversations. This is work that our partners – Centre for Multicultural Youth and Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health – are conducting for HealthWest, as a continuation of our learning about priority actions for economic inclusion. Through these conversations, we hope to learn about what it means to community members to have a job that they are happy with, the things that help or make it hard to get a job, and what can be done so there is better access to job opportunities in the future.
This work was needed before COVID became a part of our world, and COVID is not its main focus. But ensuring everybody has access to meaningful work will lead to health benefits for us all, and should inform planning for health in our region beyond the crisis.
Stay tuned to HealthWest to see what we’re learning in the coming months. If you don’t already receive our monthly eNewsletter, sign up here (external link to Mailchimp).
By Anna Vu, Acting Executive Officer
2019 Economic Inclusion Work