Federal Budget: youth jobs measures welcome, big picture still challenging

03 May 2016

Budgets are not just about bottom lines, says the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

A key priority for any government must be to build the skills of all people in our nation so they can take part in economic and social life, and contribute to and benefit from prosperity.

“The rhetoric of jobs and growth needs to be matched by recognition that the most disadvantaged Australians in our prosperous country need assistance to fully access economic opportunities,” said Brotherhood of St Laurence chief Tony Nicholson. “This requires ongoing and comprehensive attention.”

“In this Budget, we welcome the Turnbull Government's announcement of a new youth employment package building on the substantial youth unemployment strategy in the 2015 Budget. It's pleasing that policy makers are now recognising that the transition from school to work is much riskier than in previous decades. We know in the modern economy, employers need workers with skills and work experience that so many of our young people find harder to acquire.

“While the details are yet to come, the commitment to help 120,000 young people over four years by building employability skills, offering internships and making available wage subsidies to employers is a positive step.”

A new initiative to establish a fund to test approaches to assist highly disadvantaged groups move into work also holds promise if implemented wisely, but the design of programs will be critical, Mr Nicholson said.

We can't lose sight of the big picture, however.

As the Brotherhood has repeatedly noted in its campaign for youth employment, there are more than 250,000 people aged 15 to 24 who are unemployed today. 

The youth unemployment rate, at around 12 per cent nationally, remains above the levels seen before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Disturbingly, almost 50,000 young people have been without a job for more than a year, and rank as “long-term unemployed”.

The challenge of joblessness

Further demonstrating the challenge of joblessness in Australia, overall more than 720,000 Australians of all ages remain unemployed. Within this group, more than 180,000 are long-term unemployed.

“At the Brotherhood of St Laurence, we know from experience that disadvantaged people overwhelmingly share mainstream aspirations, to have a sense of family, a home - and for those who can work, a job,” Mr Nicholson said.

“The benefits of economic growth must reach the most vulnerable people among us. As we steer towards the 2016 federal election, that's a bottom line that neither the Government nor the Opposition nor any minor party should forget as they set policy priorities.”

Media inquiries: Jeannie Zakharov on 0428 391 117

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