Our jobs crisis: One in five teens can't find work

ONE in five 15 to 19 year olds are now unemployed in Australia - a level not seen since the mid 1990s.

The shocking revelation comes in a new analysis published on Monday by national welfare agency the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Older youth are also struggling.

If you are aged 15 to 24 and looking for work, your probability of finding a job has steadily declined since the global financial crisis (GFC), according to the report, The Teenage Dream Unravels: trends in youth unemployment.

The changing nature of the workforce has meant jobs that were once available for young people to get into employment no longer exist.

There are fewer apprenticeships and greater demand for skilled, experience workers.

"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,'' said Brotherhood chief Tony Nicholson.

"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.''

More than 290,000 Australians aged 15 to 24 were unemployed in January. Findings from the new report, analysing Australian Bureau of Statistics and other data, are:

  • Nearly 160,000 Australians aged 15 to 19 were unemployed in January, out of an overall pool of   780,000. 
  • The proportion of unemployed Australians with less than Year 12 has fallen, while the proportion with some tertiary education has risen. People with less than year 12 made up more than 44 per cent of the unemployed in every year from 2005 to 2010, then dropped sharply to 32 per cent in 2011 and 36 per cent in 2012. The proportion of unemployed with some tertiary education rose over the same period.
  • Unemployment is still rising more than six years on from the GFC.

The Teenage Dream Unravels report is part of the Brotherhood of St Laurence's Youth Unemployment Monitor e-newsletter out today, where Ricky Muir, a cross-bench senator from Victoria, details his experience of being an unemployed teenager.

Senator Muir reveals he left school at 15 in the mid-1990s.

Without financial support from his parents, he applied for many entry-level jobs, including abattoir work, near where he lived in Gippsland in Victoria.  

Senator Muir writes that he found being young and unemployed a very challenging experience.

"I couldn't catch a break for a long time. It was soul-destroying," he writes. He obtained his first job, in manufacturing in Melbourne, at age 17.

Senator Muir also filmed a short video for the Brotherhood of St Laurence's Youth Unemployment Monitor, in which he details some of his personal experiences.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence says effective solutions must include implementing a national Youth Transitions Service - providing early career advice, targeted vocational training and, importantly, work experience - in youth unemployment hotspots across the country.

In January, the overall unemployment rate hit 6.4 per cent (seasonally adjusted). The youth unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds in January reached 14.2 per cent.

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