Over the past few years my research has shown young Australians are having trouble transitioning from school to full-time employment. Around a third are either un- or under- employed – and this is increasing. Young people are disadvantaged in tight labour markets where there is strong competition for jobs because they lack work experience, networks and job seeking knowledge. They are edged out by more experienced people needing to stay in the labour force longer. They will be further squeezed by the imminent automation of entry level jobs.
Some countries, like Finland, are backing their young people though tough economic times. They are giving them a guarantee of engagement post school. While this has not reduced their high overall youth unemployment rate (23%), most are now in study or work three months after leaving school (83%). Finland’s greatest achievement is that it has created the lowest youth long-term unemployment rate in the European Union. Preventing long term youth unemployment is critical as early experiences of unemployment are strongly associated with declining mental health and a lifetime of disadvantage. Finland’s approach stands in strong contrast to Australia's where policy is focused on punitive measures to get young people off welfare, or, providing assistance only once they are “vulnerable” long term unemployed.
Here in Victoria, I have been working with the Central Ranges Local Learning and Employment Network to make a difference through its 100 ways in 100 days campaign. It is asking the community to provide young students high quality opportunities for work experience. The campaign is good for young people, but the connections made also build stronger communities, and send a signal that the welfare of this generation of young people is everybody’s business.
Work is changing and full time jobs are harder to find. Government’s are slow to debate how we will create and distribute work in our changing world. While we wait, we should support the spread of this campaign to all communities and give the next generation our support. Read my campaign leaflet here.