Friday, February 11, 2011

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Unless you're young, young, young.

It's strange, strange, strange

Away from Queensland the jobs market is booming, unless you are young.

The latest employment figures show that while flood-ravaged Queensland lost 5,000 jobs in January the rest of the nation piled on an extra 29,000 - boosting employment by around 1000 new jobs each day.

But for teenagers there has been nothing. While adult employment has surged 330,000 over the past year, the employment of teenagers has climbed not at all. Measured on a seasonally-adjusted basis it has fallen by about 100.

"It is to be expected that employment of teenagers falls during recessions, they are the first people employers don't take on," says Melbourne Institute employment specialist Mark Wooden. "But we are way past the recovery stage now. Young people should be doing quite well. There are other things at play."

One is that many of the new jobs on offer require skills. "Young people don't come with skills, they have to acquire them"... says Professor Wooden. "There was a skills shortage before the financial crisis, and we are moving back into one."

"Returns to education are increasing. We are seeing participation of young people in the labour market falling while adult participation climbs. In fact the whole idea of what constitutes young is changing. People are not beginning their adult lives until later. In the 1950s and 1960s people left school at 15. These days you need to have a university degree to hold down a very elementary white collar job."

Professor Wooden says two special factors are working against teenage employment. "Tourism has traditionally been a youth-friendly industry. It has taken a battering with the high dollar and it'll face worse with the problems in Queensland. Young people are the ones who miss out."

"And retail, long a big employer of casual and young workers, is doing nothing much. It is not so-much as a case of laying off workers as not employing that many more."

Youth unemployment has climbed from 15.8 per cent to 16.5 per cent over the past year. At the same time the overall unemployment rate has edged down from 5.3 to 5.0 per cent.

Non-profit apprenticeship agency WPC Group said despite as many as 150,000 15 to 19 year olds being in neither full-time work or study it was struggling to find applicants.

"Many young jobseekers due to a combination of misinformation or poor careers advice, believe apprenticeships are the jobs that no-one else wants, are poorly paid or second best to university study," said chief executive Nicholas Wyman.

"Since the new year over 50 per cent of out of work candidates referred to us through job services providers have failed to show up for interviews".

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday rejected an Opposition proposal to ease work restrictions on foreign student and tourist visas to help flood reconstruction.

“While overseas students already have limited work rights to supplement their living costs in Australia, the primary purpose of their visa to undertake study, he said. "If they study to help with reconstruction their visas could be cancelled due to failing course requirements."

Despite remaining steady at 5 per cent in January the outlook for Australia's unemployment rate is good. Excluding Queensland it fell below 4.9 per cent.


Year to January

Australians aged 20 and over:


Australians aged 15 to 19:



NSW 4.9%
Victoria 5.1%
Queensland 5.6%
Western Australia 4.6%
South Australia 5.3%
Tasmania 6.4%

ABS 6202.0, Seasonally adjusted

Published in today's SMH and Age

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