YOUNG people have been suspicious for years that they are being screwed over but now there’s proof that they genuinely are.
New research on youth unemployment has found that government policies trying to help older workers and skilled migrants have hurt young people.
It’s a very different picture to what the government would have you believe, with previous policies from the Abbott Government painting young people as lazy and trying to cut back their unemployment benefits.
But it may be the government’s policies that are actually keeping people out of work.
“Efforts to address youth unemployment have focused on skill deficiencies, work ethic and the education system producing job-ready workers,” the authors of a new report noted on The Conversation.
“The reality is that poor economic performance and high levels of skilled migration are standing in the way of young Australians entering the labour market for the first time.”
The report published in the latest volume of the Journal of Applied Youth Studies found many of the extra jobs created in the last 20 years had been soaked up by older workers and skilled migrants.
Brendan Churchill, a research fellow at the University of Tasmania, said this was likely connected to government policies that encouraged businesses to employ mature age workers.
“We assume that these have been effective because there has been such strong growth for over 55s soaking up jobs,” he said told news.com.au.
There have also been increased numbers of skilled migrants entering the country despite figures showing they aren’t needed.
“This means businesses don’t want to invest in young people as it’s easier to hire a mature aged worker because of the government incentives, or to hire a migrant, than train a young person.
“There is also the negative message about Generation Y being lazy and refusing to work, this all culminates and puts young people at a disadvantage.”
Mr Churchill said Australia needed a youth agenda. Currently the focus of government policy was on the ageing population, and improving productivity through getting more older workers, women and skilled migrants into jobs.
Young people don’t even feature in the government’s regular intergenerational reports.
“Young policy is not really on the agenda, it’s nowhere,” he said.
“We don’t look at youth or their benefits.”
THE SAD STATE OF YOUTH EMPLOYMENT
One of the important tipping points was the global financial crisis in 2007.
Before that youth unemployment was 8.8 per cent, close to the low rates of the 1970s.
But by 2015, this had skyrocketed to 13.9 per cent.
While Australia avoided the worst effects of the crisis, young people were a noted exception and their employment rates were similar to many countries that went into recession.
After the crisis, their unemployment rate did not improve at the same rate as older age groups.
MEANWHILE, OLDER WORKERS BOUNCE BACK
Among those aged 55 to 64, the rate of those in work actually improved dramatically and is now almost the same as general employment rates. This is in line with government policies to encourage both female and mature-aged people to work.
Raising the age at which people can access their superannuation and pensions also played a role. The financial crisis also meant the value of many people’s super funds declined and kept people working for longer.
The trend was made worse by the skilled migration program, which was introduced in 2008.
The program was aimed at bringing in workers from overseas to address the growing mismatch between the skills and experience of Australian workers, and what employers were looking for.
Back in 2005 it was justified as employment growth was still higher than total net overseas migration.
But that trend has now reversed with migration now higher than employment growth in the five years to 2015.
WE’RE FAILING YOUNG PEOPLE
The report authors point out that youth policy has become associated with education and training policy and getting youth to follow a straight path into work, which involves finishing school, then going on to complete other qualifications and finally getting a job.
Unfortunately research has shown that following this path does not guarantee success.
“The labour market has changed completely for young people. They go to uni and pay huge HECS repayments in order to get a job but they aren’t guaranteed a job after graduation,” Mr Churchill said.
“That wasn’t the case 30 years ago when people could leave school at year 10 and held jobs for life.”
The report authors looked at employment data over the last 20 years by age group to see how young people aged 15 to 24 fared compared to older workers.
“Young people are missing out on entering the labour market at earlier ages,” Mr Churchill said.
“There are jobs available but they are simply being taken up by skilled migrants and older workers.”
The good news is that once a person reaches the age of 25, they are more likely to be in the workforce.
“This suggests that the initial transition from school to work is failing young people,” the authors noted.