APAC economist Callam Pickering said that while Australia’s lockdown restrictions are likely to ease in the foreseeable future, coronavirus will leave Australia’s economy weak, with anaemic growth for years to come. Pickering observed that a recession seems almost certain at this stage. Notably, the economic impacts from this recession will disproportionally affect employees of older age brackets. Asked by a worker in his late 50s about job prospects for older demographics, Pickering answered that even during the ‘good times’ it’s tough for workers in their 50s or 60s to find a new job. While workplaces have become more welcoming to older employees, Pickering noted that age discrimination ‘is unfortunately still a thing.’ He anticipates that the impacts of coronavirus will disproportionally affect older generations as companies continue to increase redundancies. Pickering predicted that labour markets will be saturated with workers, both young and old, struggling to find employment. However, Pickering expects the Federal Government to make older workers a priority in this tough time. As older Australians are a key voting demographic for the Coalition and older workers have experienced strong employment growth over the past decade, Pickering said that they are likely to be kept under close watch over the coming year.
Australia’s former race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, has called on the Morrison government to take action against coronavirus-fuelled racism following a rise in reported incidents. Mr Soutphommasane, who now works as a professor of sociology and political theory at the University of Sydney, said he believes reports of anti-Asian racism to date are only the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ ‘We know that racism tends to be underreported, so for every incident we see and hear about, there will be many others that go unobserved by the public,’ he told SBS News. ‘If it’s this bad when people are in isolation, then how bad will it be when people start coming back?’ he said. ‘People are angry and they’re afraid because of what’s happening around the world with the pandemic, and calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’, as Donald Trump and others have done, has made it possible to scapegoat people of Chinese and other Asian backgrounds,’ Soutphommasane continued. ‘Blaming Australians of Asian background or international students of Asian backgrounds for the coronavirus is similar to blaming an Australian of caucasian background for the actions of Donald Trump in the US – it simply doesn’t make any sense and we’re better than that.’ While Mr Soutphommasane’s remarks are corroborated by an uptick in racial discrimination complaints made to Australian Humans Rights Commission (AHRC) in the first quarter of this year, there are other data collection platforms seeing a rise in race-related complaints. An online reporting database created by the Asian Australian Alliance received more than one hundred and seventy reports of coronavirus-related incidents of racism over the past two weeks alone. More than 60 per cent of those reported being subject to racial slurs, such as ‘Go back to China’ and ‘Stop eating bats’. Mr Soutphommasane said that Federal and State governments as well as community leaders must take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Asian racism now. He warned that if left unattended, the situation will likely deteriorate. ‘There’s been no renewable anti-racism efforts in the form of a national strategy or campaign since 2015, so this would be a good time for the federal government to consider supporting an anti-racism response in that form,’ he said. ‘No one should have to go around expecting that they will cop abuse, vilification and, in some cases, violence,’ he concluded.