“I feel like there is no direction and no way out” – unemployment in a time of coronavirus

Thomas Sanders. Photo Molly Jones.
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Unemployment came as a shock to countless young workers, even those who thought they were secure. Molly Jones talks to two young Melburnians doing their best to cope with life under Covid-19.

Practising isolation and social distancing from friends and family can be lonely, but adding unemployment can add several more layers of stress.

Personal trainer Thomas Sanders, 21, had only recently started his own business when the coronavirus took away his livelihood.

“With less than 24 hours’ notice, I lost any source of income – which was frightening,” Thomas says.

The closure of gyms initially took him by surprise, he says, and he didn’t feel there was enough information or conversation about it in the lead up.

 “I felt like I went to sleep, woke up and we were in lockdown,” Thomas says.

“It was annoying that they didn’t see the gym as an essential service. Looking back now I understand why but it was still frustrating.”

Losing his work has added to mental health pressures.

“It was kind of like, ‘oh yeah whatever, this will pass over pretty quickly’. Now bills are continuing to pile up and I feel like there is no direction and no way out. I just feel helpless,” Thomas says.

Thomas says he spends continues to spend countless hours applying for jobs, which has been far more challenging than he anticipated.

“I’ve been applying for about 10 jobs daily. But to have only two people get back to you just to knock you back makes you feel like you’re worth nothing.

“I have no job and no income and I feel like I’m sitting at home doing nothing. I don’t feel like I’m worth much at all now, if I’m being honest,” he says.

The Government has released a series of funds for people unemployed because of the coronavirus, the large backlog of applications means delays in getting assistance out. Thomas says he’s still waiting, while his debts are building.

Dan Murphy’s customer assistance worker Abbey Pyke, 23, says she feels lucky to still have a job, though the situation is surreal.

“I didn’t think it would get as big as it is now and I never thought anything like this would happen in my lifetime,” she says.

Abbey says she kept up with the news, and never really felt her job was threatened.

“Non-essential and essential services were declared at the same time but everything else closing was a shock. I just feel so lucky to have my job,” she says.

Abbey says Dan Murphy’s was ensuring their workers are as comfortable as possible, while abiding by all safely precautions.

 “We’re getting protective screens put in place as a barrier between us and customers, social distancing signs have been put up and the floors have also been marked to follow the 1.5m distancing rule. We also have gloves, face masks and hand sanitizer available to us on each shift,” she says.

Abbey tries to stick to her routine and keep a sense of balance in her life whilst also isolating when she isn’t on shift.

“Going to work helps keep things normal and allows me to still have social interaction in a safe environment.”

If this article has raised any concerns, please refer to the following support services:

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • COVID-19 National Hotline: 1800 020 080