More than a quarter of those aged 17 to 24 in Australia are not in full-time work or full-time study, according to a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) report released today.
In some states, like Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, that figure edged closer to one in three. And among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, that figure was above 40%.
The findings, gleaned from a report on education outcomes across Australia’s states and territories, reveal a difficult transition from school to employment.
The number of young people in full-time work or employment has declined 1.2% since COAG last looked at the issue in the relative boom-times of 2006. Even then, however, the figures showed 26.1% of young people in that age bracket were not in full-time work or education. Now 27.3% of Australia’s young people fit into this category, which the report states puts them at a greater risk of an insecure future.
The falling labour force participation by young people was partially offset in COAG’s figures by a rise in young people in full-time education. The proportion of 17 to 24 year olds engaged in full-time study increased from 28.6% in 2006 to 32% in 2011.
Speaking to The Conversation, Greg Craven, deputy chairman of the COAG reform council and vice-chancellor at Australian Catholic University, said this was of concern.
“What happens to young people when they leave school is crucial to how we meet the future demands of our economy – and to the quality of their lives,” he said, crediting the worsening situation, in part, with the lingering effects of the global financial crisis.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the release highlights “the immediate need for a concerted effort by both state and national governments to boost youth employment and put skills development integrated with work for young Australians back on the national agenda”.
The employer body pointed to the removal of government incentives around apprenticeships as having caused a drop in apprenticeship numbers. “The apprenticeship has been neglected by government and needs to be revived so we do not create a lost generation of Australians who missed out on opportunities to develop skills that enable them to secure sustainable employment.”
Young unemployment is regularly higher than Australia’s overall unemployment rate. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, which measure the number of young people 15 to 19 years old who are not studying and are actively looking for work, 25.5% of young people are unemployed. Total unemployment in Australia is 5.7%.
The issue of youth unemployment came up in the recent federal election campaign. The then-government considered forcing young job seekers into army-style youth boot camps before giving them the dole, while the Liberal-National coalition went to the election with a policy to suspend dole payments for those under 30 if unskilled work is available in their area.