No coherent strategy on youth unemployment in Victorian Budget

7 May 2013

The Victorian Budget represents a missed opportunity for the State Government to put forward a coherent strategy to address the problems of persistent disadvantage in some of the most neglected parts of our community, the Brotherhood of St Laurence said today.

There are a sprinkling of social policy initiatives, but they amount to a piecemeal response to some of the key challenges Victorians face – notably the stubborn rates of youth unemployment.

“The standout social issue that has been ignored is youth unemployment," said Brotherhood executive director Tony Nicholson. "It’s disappointing there is little in the Budget to target the state's youth unemployment rate which currently sits at 18 per cent for 15-to-19 years olds – among the worst in mainland Australia.

"Victoria’s economic prospects partly rely on performance in developing its human capital; that is the talents and capabilities of all Victorians. It’s hard to understand how a Budget that aims to improve productivity and economic growth offers no clear strategy to tackle youth unemployment – arguably our most pressing economic and social problem," Mr Nicholson said.

Meagre new funds for young jobless

"While there is a meagre amount of new funds to support employment start-up and mentoring initiatives, the Budget does nothing to assist TAFE colleges reinstate the access and equity programs for disadvantaged young people that have been wound back over the past year.

"Our experience at the Brotherhood of St Laurence shows that TAFE colleges are the institutions best placed in the community to help disengaged learners. The $200 million allocated to the TAFE sector in this Budget will address the TAFE sector’s infrastructure and structural adjustment needs, but not its capacity to help these disadvantaged young learners.

"In fact, despite the high youth unemployment in Victoria, the Budget papers are forecasting no change in the participation rate in training and further education of 15-to-24 year olds.

"This neglect is in marked contrast to the $131 million earmarked for an additional 357 prison beds, calling into question the government’s commitment to prevention and early intervention.

Some bright spots

"Despite the lack of strategy to address key social policy challenges, we do welcome individual initiatives including:

  • Funds to support the establishment of Disability Care (NDIS);
  • Funds to better support vulnerable children and their families;
  • Funds to extend Victoria’s partnership with the Federal Government to tackle homelessness and extend support to homeless families."

Mr Nicholson added that he was also particularly pleased to see a further commitment to the State Government’s Youth Foyer program, an initiative that is leading the nation in reforming the approach taken to youth homelessness.