Reality of long-term unemployment bites for Australia’s millennials: report

4 December 2017

More than 50,000 youth out of work for a year or more

Young Australians are facing a roller coaster ride into adulthood in a fast changing modern economy, according to a stark new report on youth unemployment published today by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Among 267,000 unemployed people aged 15 to 24 in Australia, almost one in five – or 50,500 young people – fall into the ‘long-term unemployed’ category; that is, they have been out of work for a year or more.

Amid recent improvements in overall unemployment, the national anti-poverty group’s analysis of Australia Bureau of Statistics data paints a more uncertain picture for millennial job hunters in the labour market.

The Brotherhood’s latest report said the consequence of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis remains defining in the trajectory of Australia’s youth unemployment story. Long-term youth unemployment in Australia is presently three times the number it was before the GFC hit, and youth unemployment generally has been hard to shift in the fast-changing modern economy, according to the report, “Reality Bites: Australia’s youth employment in a millennial era”.

Released as part of the Brotherhood of Laurence’s campaign for youth employment, the report points out that the unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds in the labour force sits stubbornly high at 12.4 per cent (trend rate in October 2017) – more than double the overall unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent.

Digging deeper to probe stereotypes of unemployed youth, the report also analysed Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey data and found that unemployed youth undertake as wide a range of job search activities as older jobseekers.

“Blaming young unemployed people for their predicament is simply not supported by the facts,” the report said.Tony Nicholson, the Brotherhood’s Executive Director, said policy makers could not afford to be complacent about the risk youth unemployment posed for the emerging generation. The national economy needed young people’s contribution as workers and taxpayers, he added.

“Being long-term unemployed when a young person is making the key transition to independent adulthood poses a threat to their future economic and personal wellbeing. Yet, this is the reality many of our young people face, especially in disadvantaged suburbs and rural and remote regions,” Mr Nicholson.

“More broadly, it worries me that our social security payments for our unemployed people - both the Youth Allowance and Newstart – are now so low that this is hindering unemployed people’s hunt for paid work, for example to be able to afford transport or appropriate clothes to attend job interviews.

”Newstart has a base rate as little as $38.48 a day for a single unemployed person without children, and Youth Allowance is even lower.

“These very low payments need to be addressed as part of a considered response to youth unemployment,” Mr Nicholson said.

Citigroup Australia board chair Sam Mostyn joins campaign for youth employment

Meanwhile, prominent board director Sam Mostyn called for a more intelligent public narrative about young people and said she was deeply concerned about the level of youth unemployment. She said she was expressing her concern from a business and parental perspective as the mother of an 18 year old.

“On key indicators we are a wealthy country, yet we are beginning to sense that the world we are handing to the next generation is in worse shape than the one we inherited from our parents,” Ms Mostyn said in a column she penned for the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Youth Unemployment Monitor publication.

Ms Mostyn, Citigroup Australia’s board chair, is also a board director at Virgin Australia, Mirvac, Transurban and the Sydney Swans.

Read the Reality Bites report

Read the column by Citigroup Australia Chair Sam Mostyn

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