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Australians queue up for help as unemployment fears grow

AFP
Published : Mar 23, 2020, 11:36 am IST
Updated : Mar 23, 2020, 11:36 am IST

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the coronavirus pandemic would cause an economic crisis akin to the Great Depression

Hundreds of Austalians queue up outside an Australian welfare centre in Meblourne. AFP Photo
 Hundreds of Austalians queue up outside an Australian welfare centre in Meblourne. AFP Photo

Sydney: Jobless Australians flooded unemployment offices around the country Monday as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the coronavirus pandemic would cause an economic crisis akin to the Great Depression.

After a record 29 years of economic growth, Australia is poised to spiral into recession as the global coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on the country's economy despite a Aus$189 billion ($109 billion) government relief package.

In scenes not seen in Australia for decades, queues stretched around the block at unemployment offices around the country as the forced closure of pubs, casinos, churches and gyms began at midday on Monday.

 An online portal for government services also crashed as jobseekers rushed to register for income support payments, which have been temporarily doubled by Aus$550 a fortnight to help people cope with the coronavirus crisis.

With hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line, Morrison told his compatriots they faced an economic crisis "the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression", referring to the global financial meltdown in the late 1920s and 1930s.

"They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak -- something unimaginable at this scale, only weeks ago," he told Parliament.

"They have lost their jobs, many, and we know many more will. This is the biggest economic shock our nation has faced in generations."

Services Australia, which operates the social welfares offices known as Centrelink, urged people not to visit physical locations unless there was a "critical need" to do so.   

Tags: australia covid-19, australian unemployment, great depression, economic crisis