University jobs lost at a rate of ‘one in five’ as COVID-19 border laws continue to bite
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic recession, Australia’s higher education sector was hit harder than any other industry in the country’s economy, according to the latest report. Because of public health measures and the closure of Australia’s borders to international students, universities in Australia have been driven into financial and operational upheaval in recent months. Furthermore, the Commonwealth government failed in its decision to exclude universities from the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme (which had an initial budget of $130 billion and was designed to support 6 million jobs during the early lockdowns). This exacerbated the situation. In the face of dwindling revenue, operational challenges (such as online learning), and health-related restrictions, universities and colleges were forced to fend for themselves. The academic community, researchers, support staff, and students have all suffered tremendously as a result of this acute, but preventable, financial crisis.
In the report “An Avoidable Catastrophe: Pandemic Job Losses in Higher Education and Their Consequences,” written by Eliza Littleton and Jim Stanford, a number of findings were revealed. The report, which examines the causes and consequences of widespread job losses in higher education, includes several key findings. When comparing the first six months of 2021 to the same time the previous year, total employment in higher education declined by 40,000 positions, according to the BLS. Job losses were concentrated in permanent, full-time positions – and they were all in government-run establishments, to top it all off.
In the early months of the pandemic, casual workers were among the first university personnel to lose their employment, as universities grappled with the sudden loss of international student tuition, among other implications of the virus, during the first few months of the pandemic. While the number of job losses has increased significantly this year, the majority of them have been aimed at permanent full-time employees. Universities are downsizing and casualizing their workforce on a more permanent basis in the expectation that border closures will continue indefinitely — and the Commonwealth government will continue to deny targeted assistance that is required to keep the universities’ instructional and research capacities operating.
According to the report, universities are recommended to seek special temporary assistance from the Commonwealth government until borders can be reopened and revenues can resume normal operations. Universities would benefit from targeted support in the amount of $3.75 billion, which would help them replace and maintain the jobs that have been lost so far this year. When the economy is experiencing long-term structural changes as a result of the pandemic, the preservation of the functions of Australian universities is particularly critical. As a result, more students will require higher education opportunities to support the resulting employment transitions, the preservation of the functions of Australian universities is particularly critical. Apart from that, the outbreak has brought to light how vital it is now, more than ever, to conduct high-quality research (particularly in the health sciences) to combat the spread of disease.
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