COVID-19 ‘pressure cooker’ doesn’t discriminate
Stressed families are at boiling point in a COVID-19 pressure cooker, Australia's biggest childcare chain has warned.
Goodstart Early Learning executive Myra Geddes said childcare workers had noticed many families under stress - from the poorest parents to high-earning professionals.
"Our teachers and educators and centre leaders have really seen first-hand the pressure and stress that COVID has brought into our society,'' Ms Geddes, Goodstart's general manager of social impact, told a Queensland Futures Institute breakfast in Brisbane today.
"We've seen it across the social gradient in a way that we really haven't seen before.
"It wasn't localised to low socio-economic communities, it was in every community.
"We were seeing in families, that typically had dual income working parents, both at home, sometimes both with reduced work or with reduced income, having to work in different ways, desperate to hang on to the jobs they had.
"You throw home schooling into the mix and that's a very unique pressure cooker for most Australian families.''
Ms Geddes said the Victorian lockdown showed that "we're not out of the woods yet and the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be felt for some time''.
She said that once today's generation of kids in daycare starts working, they will still be paying off government spending on pandemic emergency assistance.
She called on governments to invest more in early childhood education to produce "resilient'' Australians.
The University of Queensland's new vice-chancellor, Professor Geraldine Mackenzie, said 20 per cent of school leavers who usually take a "gap year'' are set to head straight to university next year.
She said one of the things keeping her "awake at night'' was the high unemployment rate facing young Queenslanders.
"We must put the education of future generations of young Queenslanders first,'' she said.
"The horrifying forecast for youth unemployment is something that everyone one of us should have at the top of our mind.
"There's no option for a gap year next year … so we will see many more of our school leavers looking for educational opportunities.''
Professor Mackenzie said many older workers were heading back to university to "upskill, re-skill and cross-skill''.
"That is making us look at the course options we have available at the post graduate level, breaking them down into bite sized components,'' she said.
Professor Mackenzie said COVID-19 had exposed a fault line in Australia's university funding system, as unis slashed spending to make up for the loss of fee-paying foreign students.
She predicted that foreign students will not be allowed back to Australia until at least the second term of university next year.
"What this situation has exposed is a fault line in the Australian system,'' she said.
"In terms of Australia's research capability, we punch well above our weight on the global stage, but it is highly dependent on funding through international student revenue.
"The situation has exposed that, laid it bare.
"We have to as a nation look at how do we sustain our research capability, it's absolutely critical for our future.''
Originally published as COVID-19 'pressure cooker' doesn't discriminate