An Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report has revealed young workers have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic isolation measures.

Workers aged 20 and under experienced the biggest losses in employment (9.9%) and wage payments (12.7%), according to ABS data revealed between mid-March and 4 April.

University of Wollongong Associate Professor Martin O’Brien said youth lay-offs are common when economies struggle.

“Whenever we move through a down-turn in the economy, it’s those who are in the margins of the labour market that tend to be affected most. So, youth are usually the first to be laid off,” A/Prof. O’Brien said.

The ABS data revealed industries with young workers had recorded the biggest job losses.

The food and accommodation services industry suffered a 25.6% decrease in employment.

Arts and recreational services had the second-highest loss of job employment at 18.7%.

A/Prof. O’Brien said the economic strain could harm students finishing their studies.

“They talk about a generation of youth [in the ’90s] being scarred from the recession,” he said.

“It was people that were nearing the end of their education with the jobs not being there… the longer you are unemployed the more unemployable you are from an employer’s perspective … It turns into a nasty, vicious cycle.”

People aged over 70 showed the second-highest losses in employee jobs (9.7%), slightly lower than the rate for people aged under 20.

A/Prof. O’Brien said employers often laid-off people who were close to retirement age, and they were unlikely to find more work.

“There is a lot of age discrimination with employers who are not likely to take on older people. [Employers think] that they are not likely to listen, they are more set in their ways, more likely to take sick leave and stuff like that,” he said.