Jobless generation on cards for Australia
24 February 2014 at 10:10 am
Leading community organisation Mission Australia claims Australia could be on the brink of a jobless generation unless the Federal Government makes youth unemployment a priority in the May Budget.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal levels of youth joblessness have reached more than 20 per cent in some parts of the country. The average youth unemployment rate in Australia is double the general unemployment rate of 6 per cent, with 12.2 per cent of 15-24 year olds looking for work.
Tasmania is the worst hit, with youth unemployment as high as 21 per cent in the west and north-west of the state, while Cairns and Adelaide are also sitting around 20 per cent.
“That’s one in five local youths languishing in unemployment,” Mission Australia CEO Toby Hall said.
Other areas with high youth unemployment include the Hume region, stretching north-east of Melbourne to the VIC-NSW border (17.5 per cent); Parramatta in Sydney’s west (16.8 per cent); Queensland’s Moreton-Bay North region (18.1 per cent); and the Northern Territory outback region (18.5 per cent).
Hall said thousands of Australian youth are at risk of becoming the lost generation.
“As the host of this year’s G20, we are very pleased that the Australian government has made youth unemployment a priority,” he said. “We now need to show the world that Australia has a plan to tackle youth unemployment domestically as well, rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet.
“More than one quarter of Australia’s long-term unemployed are aged 15-24, and the percentage of young Australians without a job for a year or longer has almost doubled since 2008.
“Our youth were the biggest casualty of the Global Financial Crisis and they haven’t made it back into the workforce as the economy has recovered. As the youngest, least-experienced employees they were the first to go and the last to return.”
Hall said that with Australia facing another jobs slump, the opportunities for young people to break the cycle will be even fewer. “It’s a bleak picture for young people not engaged in work, education or training – and it’s a picture we can’t afford to ignore,” he said.
“As the Abbott Government prepares for the May Budget with reviews of existing and expiring programs, support for young people to stay engaged in education, training or work is vital.”
One key program currently under review is Youth Connections, an initiative that works with young people aged 15 to 19 to keep them in or re-engage them with education, training or paid-work.
$288 million has been invested to fund the national program, run by organisations including Mission Australia, over its first four years. However, according to Mission Australia, current funding runs out in December this year and no commitment has been made to keep the program running.
Mission Australia analysis has found that if the 30,000 young people who have been supported by Youth Connections each year ended up on NewStart instead, the potential cost to government from income support payments alone would be more than $390 million a year or around $2 billion over five years. Continued investment would provide a potential saving to government of $318 million a year, accounting for ongoing funding of the program and keeping young people off NewStart, Hall said.
“As the Government evaluates existing programs we would urge it to continue to invest in programs where we know the evidence demonstrates effective outcomes,” he said.
“Given the jobless figures…it’s abundantly clear this is not a time to cut funding for programs that assist our youth to participate in education, training or employment.
“The research shows, by intervening early to help young people stay in school, engage in training and find work, we can set them up for a better future and so they can participate fully in the workforce rather than languishing on benefits.
“By contrast, if we cut funding to these sorts of programs in order to balance the budget, we’ll be hanging a generation of young people out to dry and the whole country will pay the price in the long run.”
The value of the Youth Connections program was demonstrated through a Youth Connections National Network survey of 206 young participants who were originally disengaged and not in education.
The survey found that 94.2 per cent were in education or employed six months after completing Youth Connections. Two years after completing Youth Connections, 81.5 per cent of respondents were still in education or employment.