Australia's Strong Jobs Data Masks A Lost Generation Of Unemployed Youths

Getty/David Ramos

The jobs data today in Australia shows that 21,000 new positions were created in November but hidden in the detail is the disturbing fact that youth employment (those aged between 15 and 19) continues to slide.

According to Craig James, CommSec Chief Economist: “The job market is stabilising with unemployment at or near its peak. But the more interesting trend concerns youth unemployment. The share of young Aussies (15-19 years) in jobs or looking for work has hit record lows. And the unemployment to population ratio of those looking for full-time work has hit 5-year lows.”

While educational and vocational changes over the years have meant changed circumstances for this age cohort the chart below is still startling.

Bill Mitchell, Professor In Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE) at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, says this is disastrous.

Writing on his blog today:

Overall, the performance of the teenage labour market is close to disastrous. It doesn’t rate much priority in the policy debate, which is surprising given that this is our future workforce in an ageing population. Future productivity growth will determine whether the ageing population enjoys a higher standard of living than now or goes backwards.

The longer-run consequences of this teenage ‘lock out’ will be very damaging.

James says that Gen Y are studying which is contributing to the low number in the workforce but as Mitchell points out there has been a stark difference in outcomes for youth employment which is down 114,000 since 2008 and other age group employment which is up 862,000 over the same period.


Mitchell says:

It is clear that the Australian labour market continues to fail our 15-19 year olds. At a time when we keep emphasising the future challenges facing the nation in terms of an ageing population and rising dependency ratios the economy still fails to provide enough work (and on-the-job experience) for our teenagers who are our future workforce.

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