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Transition & Work

BSL report highlights worsening youth unemployment figures


One in five unemployed Australians is a teenager, according to a report released by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) in March.

The report The teenage dream unravels: Trends in youth unemployment examines the latest unemployment trend data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which indicates that the national youth unemployment rate (for 15–24-year-olds) was at 14.2% in January. This is more than twice the overall national unemployment rate (6.3%).

The BSL report highlights the ‘long-lasting and insidious’ effect of the Global Financial Crisis on the Australian labour market. In contrast to the recession of the early 1990s, when unemployment rates began to recover within two years, unemployment is continuing to rise in Australia today, more than six years after the GFC. In addition, the report shows that young people aged 15–19 have a lower probability of finding a job than the general population, as well as a higher likelihood of exiting a job.

An analysis of Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey data contained in the report shows an interesting development: while the proportion of unemployed people with less than a Year 12 qualification declined between 2010 and 2012, the proportion of unemployed people with tertiary education has increased since 2010.

According to the report: ‘These results provide some preliminary evidence to counter the hypothesis proposed by some economists that job-finding probability has been declining because of the changed characteristics of the pool of unemployed (the composition effect). This suggests that the explanation for the decline in Australia’s job-finding rate is far more complicated than just deterioration in the profile of the unemployed.’

These figures have prompted BSL to call for a national Youth Transitions Service to provide career advice, vocational training and work experience to young people in ‘unemployment hotspots’ around Australia.

BSL runs a pilot Youth Transitions Service in areas of high unemployment in outer Melbourne. This structured program ‘is embedded in local communities and harnesses the efforts of local businesses and service and sporting clubs’, and ‘offers an intense focus on building up the young person as a worker’ while providing support to employers who take on young people. The Youth Transitions Service has enabled 70% of its unemployed participants to successfully move into work, training or education. This fact sheet explains more about the program.

Commenting on the BSL report, CEO Tony Nicholson said, ‘Teenagers are in the eye of this social and economic storm, and with the official national youth unemployment for 15 to 24 year olds reaching over 14 per cent, we need a national strategy to tackle the crisis hurting communities across the country.’

‘Youth unemployment is a key intergenerational issue. We need to tap into the productive potential of young people to secure future economic prosperity. Whether as policymakers, parents or concerned community members we also have obligations to the emerging generation to better build their capacity to secure work so they can build a good life for themselves.’

To download the seven-page report The teenage dream unravels: Trends in youth unemployment, find out more about BSL’s pilot Youth Transitions Service program, and read Senator Ricky Muir’s words on his ‘soul destroying’ experiences of youth unemployment, click here read BSL’s March 2023 Youth unemployment monitor.

Click here to listen to a report from ABC Radio’s PM program on the BSL report.

Source:Brotherhood of St Laurence media release, 2 March 2023.