Shnek lives alone in a rented condominium in Epping, in Melbourne’s north, and has labored for many years in an eclectic vary of jobs: gardener and upkeep employee, electronics technician for Ericsson, truck driver, storeman, fence builder and courier.
Whereas Shnek has all the time needed a steady, long-term job, he’s ended up working for a string of companies which have gone bust.
“I’ve had dangerous luck,” he says, shaking his head.
In March, Shnek started receiving the federal authorities’s fortnightly $550 coronavirus complement. It successfully doubled his JobSeeker unemployment advantages.
“It gave me sufficient to pay the hire and payments with out sweating,” he says.
However the fee has progressively been scaled again, and Shnek now receives an everyday $150 complement, taking his complete unemployment advantages to $715 a fortnight.
Whereas housing and homelessness assist service Launch Housing helped Shnek negotiate his non-public rental prices right down to $155 every week, his landlord lately hiked it again to its pre-pandemic charge of $300.
With the coronavirus complement set to run out on the finish of March and no information on when he may safe public housing, Shnek knew he needed to act quick to keep away from homelessness.
Within the subsequent few weeks he’ll transfer right into a $170-a-week room in a share home in Heidelberg West. The home is surrounded by factories and Shnek is hopeful he may discover work in considered one of them.
Shnek is tall with quick, silver hair and robust arms from a long time of guide labour. He’s by no means felt this heavy earlier than, bodily and emotionally.
Throughout his months of unemployment he has exhausted his financial savings. He bought his airconditioning unit after which his inexperienced Kawasaki motorcycle.
“I beloved it like my baby,” he says.
“That was my solely escape. I used to go driving on the weekends up within the mountains. I’d exit on the bike and felt free.”
Images of the bike stay on his pc and he shows his assortment of helmets in his front room.
“They’ve been by means of my life with me,” he says.
That is the longest Shnek has been unemployed and the stress is taking a toll on his well being.
“Only in the near past I had a little bit of an assault round right here,” he says, thumping his chest.
“I went and noticed the physician and discovered I’ve hypertension, so I’m on medicine for the remainder of my life.”
To make issues worse, Shnek fractured his knee final month after slipping on a pool of water on his flooring. He spent every week in hospital however is now on the mend, strolling and desperate to work.
Social coverage skilled Tony Nicholson says the long-term joblessness that many face is crushing.
“The longer somebody is unemployed, the extra their monetary assets are eroded, their psychological and their bodily well being diminish, as do their possibilities of getting work,” says Nicholson, who as soon as ran the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Earlier than shedding his job, Shnek was incomes nearly $1000 every week. However now, luxuries resembling porterhouse steaks on the native pub have been changed with cans of baked beans.
His Netflix subscription has been cancelled, his unpaid utility payments are mounting and his web connection has been lower off.
This implies Shnek is unable to use for jobs from house and lodges purposes through his employment company, Matchworks. He has to use for 12 jobs per 30 days to qualify for JobSeeker.
Being an older employee in a aggressive jobs market has its execs and cons, his Matchworks marketing consultant Yasmine Taha says.
“Lots of people need older staff due to the expertise they arrive with,” she explains.
“However then we get employers that need folks beneath a sure age as a result of the roles are bodily demanding.”
Earlier than the pandemic, the most important group of individuals receiving unemployment advantages have been between 55 years outdated and retirement age.
Whereas this shifted throughout the pandemic, with 25- to 34-year-olds now making up the majority of these receiving JobSeeker advantages, older staff are involved the federal authorities’s JobMaker scheme – which provides hiring credit of as much as $200 every week to companies that make use of staff beneath the age of 35 – will make it more durable to safe work.
However Taha is hopeful Shnek will discover work quickly.
“He has a very good work historical past behind him and many expertise.”
Shnek says an enormous a part of his identification is tied up with work.
“Single and no household, on their own on this world, work was by some means life for me,” he says.
“It stored my thoughts, soul and physique in examine. Once I do get a job, individuals are joyful. I put in effort. I’m accountable.”
He’s been on the lookout for work in retailer rooms, as a gardener and courier, and thought he’d discovered the proper job constructing caravans.
“I despatched in my resume,” he says.
“They mentioned, ‘You’re precisely what we’re on the lookout for however you might be too outdated, it’s too bodily.’ ”
Shnek thought he’d struck gold once more late final yr when his employment company lined up a trial at a fruit packing enterprise.
“I used to be on time day by day, working actually arduous, they couldn’t fault me,” he says.
“However they went for somebody who was youthful.”
TOMORROW: the profitable small enterprise proprietor, savaged by the pandemic
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Clay Lucas is a senior reporter for The Age. Clay has labored at The Age since 2005, protecting city affairs, transport, state politics, native authorities and office relations for The Age and Sunday Age.
Senior Reporter at The Age