Youth unemployment at ‘record high’ in the west

Youth unemployment is at a “record” high in Melbourne’s western suburbs and early school leaver numbers are “dramatic”, according to a new report.

About 2600, or six per cent, of 10-14 year-olds in the west were considered disengaged from education or training in the year ending 2014, making it difficult to develop a workforce that is highly skilled in increasingly high-tech industries.

The number of young people who are unemployed, disengaged, or in temporary and casual work in the west is higher compared with the rest of metropolitan Melbourne.

In 2011, 24.5 per cent of early school leavers in the west were still looking for work after not completing secondary school.

The figure as at March, 2015, was believed to be about 26 per cent.

According to the YouthNow report, student disengagement poses a huge problem for the west’s economy.

“Australian living standards now face the greatest threat in a generation, with no signs of strong wage growth, longer unpaid commuting times and a rise in workforce casualisation putting more pressure on middle and lower-income households,” the report states.

“Local businesses – large and small – need appropriately qualified and educated young people who possess the skills necessary for work in the 21st century, which increasingly occurs in the digital economy.”

Unemployment drivers

According to YouthNow, new concepts of work – such as casual employment, closure of manufacturing jobs and lack of government funding for services – are driving youth disengagement and unemployment.

Meanwhile, Social Ventures Australia has identified three key drivers of youth unemployment in the western suburbs – limited support, training not leading to employment and a lack of entry-level jobs.

“Young people must have access to the latest knowledge and thinking regarding the changing nature of work,” the YouthNow report states.

“Effort needs to be placed into providing unemployed youth with strategies and skills to be competitive in the emerging job market and create their own work to improve their economic success.”

One of YouthNow’s recommendations is a call for improved mental health services for youth in the western suburbs.

“Youth from Melbourne’s west specifically identified that existing services were inadequate as they did not assist them to manage issues that sometimes included depression, drug taking, indecisiveness, antisocial behaviour and lack of organisation and motivation,” the report stated.