The Australian Public Service should double its intake of graduates to provide stable jobs for young people who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, unionists say.
Australia's youth commissioner, Sophie Johnston, has backed the call, adding that the public service could be a big driver in the country's economic recovery.
In a submission to the Morrison government, the Community and Public Sector Union argued Tuesday's budget needed to put government at the centre of the post-COVID rebuild.
"There will be no alternative to a government-led rebuild because of the uncertainty and economic shock caused by the pandemic to the private sector," the union said.
Young people who would be hit hardest by the COVID-19 recession needed tailored support, including secure entry-level jobs.
The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed youth unemployment was 14.3 per cent in August, 2 points lower than the previous month but still 2.6 points higher than one year earlier.
In comparison the unemployment rate in general was 6.8 per cent, a fall of 0.7 per cent but still 1.6 points higher than at the same time the previous year.
"Employment outcomes for young Australians never recovered to pre-Global Financial Crisis levels and it will only worsen without direct Commonwealth action," the CPSU said.
If the APS doubled its graduate program, it would create more than 1400 new jobs, according to the CPSU.
The ACT government recently vowed to increased its graduate intake by 20 per cent in response to the pandemic.
"The Commonwealth has a much greater capacity than the ACT and should double its graduate program, creating 1426 additional jobs, based on June 2019 data," the CPSU said.
The expansion could be targeted at regional areas, where youth unemployment was at crisis levels before COVID-19 hit.
"A quarter of graduate positions are currently located outside the ACT. Any expansion of the program could be used to increase this percentage with a focus on regional Australia and smaller capital cities," the union said.
The CPSU also said the APS should triple the size of its trainee program to help young people without tertiary qualifications get work.
The Victorian government recently announced 800 traineeships to help address youth unemployment. In contrast, there were only 542 APS trainees in June 2019.
"The Commonwealth should match our recommended expansion in the APS graduate program with an additional 1500 positions in alternative entry-level pathways," the CPSU said.
Agencies that needed a staffing boost included Services Australia, the Australian Taxation Office, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
Services Australia had nearly 4300 fewer staff now than in 2013, despite processing more unemployment claims in six weeks than it would normally in one year.
The ATO was averaging 90,000 calls a day, relying on staff working weekends, labour-hire services and outsourced call centres to manage the workload.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which has attracted controversy amid the bungled aged care response, had already been suffering from understaffing and high staff turnover before the pandemic. Since the outbreak, staff have reported unmanagable workloads with one in four employed through labour-hire arrangements.
The NDIS commission had also battled with inadequate staffing levels and resources, despite their clients being at increased risk due to the virus.
Youth Commissioner Sophie Johnston said the pandemic presented an opportunity for governments to "start fresh".
"Now we have an opportunity, as awful as the pandemic has been for so many people, to reflect on what wasn't working in the employment and education space and put forward a new plan that works for the community and young people, and doesn't leave young people behind," Ms Johnston said.
She said young people had been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus job losses as they were more likely to be working in casualised industries like retail and hospitality due to their inexperience.
Opening up more public sector jobs would not only provide more secure employment, it would help pull Australia out of the pandemic recession, she said.
"The public sector is a really big driver of economic recovery," Ms Johnston said.
Ms Johnston said providing the private sector with Commonwealth wage subsidies to take on young apprentices or trainees would also help.