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Unemployment, no simple remedy – the job trap keeping young Aussies from full-time work

Worrying trend: “Rather than part-time, or short-term work, being a stepping stone into full-time work, they’re actually getting stuck in that cycle.”

YOUNG people often receive flak for being lazy and glued to their screens instead of joining the work-force – while this may be true for some, the harsh reality for others is much more complex.

The Foundation for Young Australians released a report saying a skills mismatch was at the heart of youth unemployment, an unemployment figure they reported to be at one in three young Australians in some places.

FYA chief executive officer Jan Owen said 70 per cent of young people were learning skills that would be redundant by 2030.

This mismatch between skills supply and demand was one of the most pressing economic challenges facing Australia, she said.

But Vinnies Australia quickly replied on Twitter, saying the issue was far more complex than just a skills mismatch.

Vinnies Australia policy and research director Corinne Dobson said while there were issues around a skills mismatch, the biggest incongruity was between the number of jobs available and the number of people looking for them.

“Particularly entry level jobs, which affects young people who might just be trying to enter the workforce for the first time,” Ms Dobson said.

“It’s just really hard to get a foothold when the job opportunities are just not there.”

But even when jobs were to be had, the quality of the jobs was often called into question.

Ms Dobson said Vinnies Australia put the Catholic social justice teaching at the forefront of their approach to employment.

“We shouldn’t be compelling young people to work in forms of employment that is not supporting their dignity,” she said.

“The decline in labour standards and the lack of proper remuneration are all major concerns that we have. 

“From a policy and political level, we would like to be hearing those issues being talked about a lot more in the discussion around jobs.”

Ms Dobson said one of the biggest challenges was “in-work poverty” – that was young people who were employed, but unable to earn enough to make ends meet.

“The notion that a job is the best way out of poverty unfortunately is not always the case,” she said.

“One of the issues we really have, that we’ve seen in countries overseas and it may be becoming more of an issue in Australia, is a cohort of young people who actually get really stuck in getting part-time, insecure, short-term work.

“And they’re cycling between that and unemployment.

“Rather than part-time, or short-term work, being a stepping stone into full-time work, they’re actually getting stuck in that cycle.

“That’s really scarring their future prospects rather than helping them.”

Ms Dobson said unemployment and underemployment was a national issue, but certain areas were more likely to face it than others.

“In some regions it’s a really severe issue where we have really high rates of unemployment, very few job opportunities and a concentration of disadvantage,” she said.

One of these regions was remote Queensland, which had one of the highest rates of youth unemployment, she said.

Another concentrated area of disadvantage was in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and for young people with disabilities, she said.

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