COVID-19 worsened homelessness, underemployment in Melbourne, report reveals
Celebrated as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is now emerging from the toughest COVID-19 lockdowns to face social, economic and environmental challenges.
According to the newly released Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2020 report, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the weakest points across Melbourne’s socio-economic systems and exacerbated existing social issues such as homelessness and underemployment.
With 12.6% of Melburnians now living in poverty, there is a growing concern that this will only increase.
Launched by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2020 is a report which gathers recognised data to measure and monitor the health and wellbeing of communities in greater Melbourne. It also captures community perspectives about issues that are the most concerning and tracks community wellbeing through a range of indicators.
“This year we have endured a double crisis with the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of each disaster on communities, the economy and environment has been severe and devastating, and has exacerbated existing social issues such as poverty, affordable housing and unemployment,” said Chief Executive Officer Dr Catherine Brown OAM.
“COVID-19 has also revealed our inherent ability to adapt rapidly whilst also providing opportunities for significant systemic change previously thought impossible,” she said.
In completing the Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2020 report, The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation partnered with The University of Melbourne for the first time to conduct a pilot community perception survey to accurately capture and understand community attitudes and perceptions during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown.
The survey results show that the top three community concerns are homelessness and housing affordability, levels of household debt, and poverty.
The top three community concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic include the pandemic’s impact on the short-term economy, long-term economy and increasing level of poverty.
The Greater Melbourne Vital Signs report shows that in July the rate of female job loss was five times the rate of male job loss. Youth unemployment sits at 16.3% and Australia’s rate of underemployment has increased by 25%.
There is also increasing concern about the mental health and wellbeing of young and older people. There has been a 33% increase in self-harm by young Australians, and of the 592 deaths from COVID-19, 97% were older people over 60 years.
“Greater Melbourne Vital Signs provides valuable insights into the issues and challenges we face as a community as we respond to and plan for a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also highlights opportunities to rebuild our communities better than before and showcases the work that is already underway by the charitable and not-for-profit sector.”
“There is huge potential in job creation linked to clean technology transition and renewable energy, supporting women in trades and investing in social enterprises,” Dr Brown said.
“We have proved that homelessness can be solved. We need to continue to house people who are homeless and increase the supply of social and affordable housing; and we need to continue to build community resilience,” she said.
The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation has provided almost $2.9 million in grants to charitable organisations and not-for-profits to support the resilience of the sector and to scale-up existing services.
Dr Brown believes that Melburnians have got what it takes to get through the COVID-19 pandemic with a strong ‘can-do’ and caring attitude.
“Although we are now faced with some tough challenges, there is also an optimistic sense of hope that we can continue the momentum experienced in our response to COVID-19 and apply it to the post-COVID-19 recovery to address these challenges,” she said.
“Melbourne has already shown through addressing homelessness during the COVID-19 that positive transformation is possible,” she said.