Unemployed young people: too many affected, too little support

In response to today’s unemployment figures which show Youth unemployment at more than 4 times the national average, ACOSS has joined with the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition in calling on the Government to respond to the increase in unemployment among young people by increasing Youth Allowance for single independent young people by $50 per week, along with the Newstart Allowance payment for adults. 

ACOSS Deputy CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine said, ‘Today’s release of the monthly ABS unemployment figures shows that young people are struggling to find work in a difficult jobs market and sinking into poverty as they rely on woefully low income support payments. The release of today’s Productivity Commission working paper on deep and persistent disadvantage also highlights people with low educational attainment as a group particularly facing severe and persistent disadvantage.

‘Over the past 12 months there has been a 30% increase in recipients of the Youth Allowance payment. The inadequacy of these payments has been recognised by the Henry tax panel, the business community, trade unions and many economists,’ said Dr Boyd-Caine.

‘Young unemployed people living independently of their parents are expected to live on $29 per day. This is even lower than the already inadequate Newstart Allowance, yet independent young people are expected to pay exactly the same amount for rent, food and other basic needs,’ said AYAC Acting Executive Director, Reynato Reodica.

‘We are equally concerned about the lack of adequate services to support young people to train and look for work’, Dr Boyd-Caine continued. ‘We need better career counselling available for all young people who leave school without Year 12 qualifications and those at risk of dropping out of school, along with more investment in Job Services Australia services for people who are unemployed long term.

‘ACOSS and AYAC renew our call on the Government, and whichever parties form the next Government, to raise both NSA and YA for independent young people, single adults and sole parents by $50 per week to lift people out of the deepest poverty.

‘We are also concerned that if the Coalition’s proposal of an American-style approach were implemented, with a 6-month time limit on payments for young people in some regions, many could be left without any support at all’, Dr Boyd-Caine said. ‘ACOSS supports strong job search requirements, but even when these are in place some people will always fall through the cracks in the jobs market. Many young people are trapped in a vicious cycle of lack of education, lack of work experience and employer’s reluctance to give them a chance. These figures show that current employment and training programs are not meeting their needs. It is important to clarify exactly who would be affected by such proposals and whether there would be a safety net for those who reach the 6-month limit.

‘ACOSS and AYAC are calling on both the Government and the Opposition to close the gaps in employment and training services which include lack of career counselling opportunities and targeted employment and training initiatives for disadvantaged young people,’ said Dr Boyd-Caine.

‘This can be done by extending Youth Connections counsellors to all early school leavers who need them, guaranteeing funding for the program beyond 2014, raising the level of investment in employment services (including a doubling of 10,000 wage subsidy places) for long term unemployed people, and reviewing funding for vocational training to make sure the system prepares unemployed people for real jobs.’

‘AYAC research from last year, talking with young Australians and the services that support them, shows a gaping hole in the government’s learn or earn policy, that means far too many young people are struggling to survive in education and employment systems that do little to ensure that they are able to thrive and be the productive members of the Australian community that they wish to be’ said Mr Reodica.

Quick facts on young people looking for work

  • Unemployed young people without Year 12 qualifications are required to return to education or training as a condition of receiving payments. The weak links in this ‘earn or learn’ approach are a lack of intensive career counselling, training that’s not matched to needs, and limited help from Job Services Australia (JSA) providers.

  • The Youth Connections program was set up to support disadvantaged young people to complete education, but the program only reaches one third of those young people needing help and funding is not guaranteed beyond 2014.

  • JSA services only receive enough funding to interview long term unemployed people once every 2 months, plus $500 to invest in training and work experience. JSAs are not funded to offer career counselling to those who need it.
  • Vocational training organisations receive no extra funds to help disadvantaged trainees who need mentoring and help with the costs of training, and no incentive to cooperate with JSAs to prepare people for jobs. As a result, many drop out of courses and the public investment in training is wasted.

Media Contacts:

Kristie Rue, ACOSS Media Officer – 0419 626 155,
Reynato Reodica, AYAC Acting Executive Director – 0416 929 252