How Australian and Indonesian youth respond to COVID-19

Young people across Australia and Indonesia are facing a difficult time amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


COVID-19 has negatively impacted a variety of sectors, particularly hospitality, retail, culture and leisure, where youth commonly work. In Australia, young people (18-24 year olds) make up more than half of workers in these affected industries, and almost one in three (28%) lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Similarly in Indonesia, the youth unemployment rate (15-24 year olds) has hit 17.64% in 2020 with a worsening labour market and jobs prospects.

But young people have not let these challenges break their spirit; instead, they have risen up in the face of this adversity. This article will tell the stories of two young people from Indonesia and Australia. While their jobs and business have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adjusted to make ends meet in their daily life.

Bayu Mahardika, 23, Bali – Indonesia

This young man is the Founder of Umbaralangu Jewelry, a small business that makes and sells bracelets and necklaces accessories. During the pandemic, Bayu Mahardika deeply felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his business, where his business turnover dropped drastically by 60%. The pandemic also impacted implementation of his strategic business planning.

How did he respond to the pandemic?

However, this did not make him stand still. He considered this moment to test the mentality of young entrepreneurs as well as a challenge in order to survive and create new strategies. He has taken various steps so that his business can survive, starting from implementing a promotion system on social media, endorsements, and making sales cooperation with souvenir shops in Bali.

It is better if young entrepreneurs remain calm when facing this coronavirus pandemic, so they or business actors can take the right steps. Apart from remaining calm, young entrepreneurs should think more creatively to improve their own business.

As a management degree alumnae, Bayu adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by working on maintaining his business strategy and he commented, “people need to support young people who own a business, even a small business, for example by supporting and buying their products. We also need to strengthen our mental health and keep up a good work during this pandemic”.

He also commented that youth could strategically use social media platforms to learn about new opportunities, products, and knowledge that could help them in this current situation.

“Keep going, and stay amazing with what you are doing right now. The pandemic is only temporary, don’t lose your creativity.”


Sarah McCoubrey, 24, Melbourne – Australia

Before the pandemic, Sarah worked as a casual animal care assistant at doggy day care centres in Melbourne. She graduated from her bachelor degree late in 2019 and had begun applying for jobs in her field as the pandemic restrictions were introduced.

Her applications didn’t bring any luck as companies worked to prioritise supporting their workers rather than hiring new ones. Sarah’s jobs were unstable and her hours were unreliable as more and more people began working from home and required less day care services. She lost one of her jobs when Melbourne entered its first lockdown in March and by the second lockdown in June, she had lost all her hours across both centres.

“The financial uncertainty took quite a toll on my mental health. There were no jobs around and I really feel like my whole year has been wasted. I felt so unmotivated but felt guilty for feeling that way – plus the added burden of not being able to travel to see my family. ”

Sarah adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by working on maintaining her mental health until she was able to start working again.

How could she have been supported better?

“As a fresh university graduate, it was hard to compete with experienced people who had lost their jobs and it was hard to know what skills were needed in sectors that needed more people. Some support applying for jobs would have really helped.”

Sarah also commented that the mental health support provided by the government was helpful and hoped it would continue next year.

Young adults are being hit hardest by the economic and psychological costs of the pandemic. Bayu and Sarah are just two of the 70 million young people across Australia and Indonesia. They’ve shown resilience and adaptability in facing the challenges COVID-19 has posed on their careers and livelihoods.

What can we do to help support our young people in Australia and Indonesia?

Communities in Australia and Indonesia should continue to support local and small businesses, especially those owned by young entrepreneurs. The upcoming festive season in Australia and Indonesian Independence Day, or other opportunities for entrepreneur exhibitions, will be excellent opportunities to support the youth from both countries.

On a government level, we should also support young people to apply for jobs that relate to their passions, as well as provide opportunities for skills training or workshops that will enable them to build transferable skills to meet future workforce demands. For example, governments could support youth to attend job fairs, and could provide workshops and training at the exhibitions.

We should offer and continue to strengthen mental health support for youth. This can be done both at a community level, by supporting friends and family, and government level, by offering mental health programs or free counselling. Mental wellbeing is a collective responsibility.

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