Youth unemployment has reached crisis point in Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence says, as it releases an analysis of the latest official figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The organisation says the figures show an average of 12.4 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were out of work in the year to January.
It says that figure has topped 20 per cent in some parts of the country, including Cairns in far north Queensland, west and north-west Tasmania, and northern Adelaide.
Executive director Tony Nicholson has described the result as a disaster.
“What it means for all these young people is that they’re at risk of never being able to get a foothold in the world of work,” he said.
“And in our modern economy that means that they’re really being sentenced to a lifetime of poverty.”
He has called on the Federal Government to invest in a national strategy to turn things around.
“Overwhelmingly we know that these young people need advice about their career paths, they need opportunities to gain basic skills, they need mentoring, but over and above all that, what they need is an opportunity to gain work experience in a real work place with a real employer,” he said.
Mr Nicholson told NewsRadio that youth unemployment has been escalating since the global financial crisis despite adult unemployment staying relatively stable.
“In a modern economy, employers are being driven to be internationally competitive and as a consequence they are placing a premium on education and qualification and particularly work experience,” he says.
“We’re getting a picture that the task of making the transition from school to work is much more difficult in this modern economy than it has been.”
The Brotherhood of St Laurence says Tasmania has the worst youth unemployment in the country.
It says 21 per cent of young people are out of work in west and north-west Tasmania, including Burnie and Devonport.
South-east Tasmania recorded nearly 20 per cent unemployment in the age group, while 18 per cent of young people in Launceston and north-east Tasmania were unemployed.
Youth unemployment hit nearly 15 per cent across Queensland last month.
Cairns recorded the worst result in the state with 20.5 per cent unemployment, but other areas of concern include the Moreton Bay region, Logan, Ipswich and the Wide Bay.
South Australia’s worst result was is in the northern Adelaide area, including Elizabeth and Gawler, with 19.7 per cent of young people unemployed.
The Northern Territory’s worst youth unemployment is in the outback, where 18.5 per cent of young people are out of work.
In Victoria, the highest level of unemployment is in the Hume region, including Goulburn Valley, Wodonga and Wangaratta, where the rate has hit 17.5 per cent.
In Western Australia’s Mandurah area, including Dawesville and Falcon, 17.3 per cent of young people are out of work, while in the Fremantle area it is around 12 per cent.
In rural WA, the rate of out-of-work youth is as high as 13 per cent.
Parramatta has the worst youth unemployment in New South Wales with 16.8 per cent of young people not working.
Eamon Waterford from the peak New South Wales youth body, Youth Action, says the lack of transport and the decline in blue collar jobs are behind the high youth unemployment rate in Parramatta.
“We have an area where it’s very difficult to get to the jobs … lack of affordable transport, lack of affordable housing means you can’t get to where the jobs are,” he said.
The ACT, where 11.3 per cent of young people are unemployed, is the only state or territory without pockets of unemployment above the national average.