Reality Bites: Australia's youth unemployment in a millennial era
It seems counter-intuitive to the very idea of ‘youth’ itself, to be young and designated long-term unemployed. But this is the reality that bites 50,500 Australians aged 15 to 24 who have spent a year or more hunting for an elusive job in a labour market that remains challenging for the millennial generation.
Amid a spate of recent headlines heralding that overall unemployment is falling, the situation for Australia’s young people is considerably more fragile: 267,000 aged 15 to 24 are unemployed.
The youth unemployment rate in October 2017 sat at 12.4 per cent (trend rate)1. This is still more than double the overall unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, although below this century’s peak of almost 14 per cent youth unemployment in 2014.
The disruptive impact of the 2008 global financial crisis remains a defining event in the trajectory of Australia’s youth unemployment story.
Youth unemployment – persistently high in the long wake of the GFC – is stifling the progress of too many young Australians as they attempt to make their transition to independent adulthood.
The subset of young people who are long-term unemployed presents as a particular concern, trending upwards since the GFC. Remarkably, long-term youth unemployment represented 18.4 per cent of all young unemployed 15–24 year olds in September 2017 – almost one in five.
Using data from the longitudinal Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, we also fact-checked the proposition promulgated in some quarters that higher unemployment rates for young people could in part be due to their being less active in looking for work. Our analysis showed, however, that unemployed youth have consistently undertaken just as wide a range of job search activities as unemployed people aged 25 and over.
Blaming young unemployed people for their predicament is simply not supported by the facts.
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