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Youth unemployment statistics and outlook

By Jana Angeles

Youth unemployment has become a major issue in the last year, with the recent recession as well as the impacts of COVID-19. These factors have led Young Australians to move back home, rely on obtaining part-time or casual work or consider changing careers due to less demand in their industry.

We provide an overview of the current Youth Unemployment Statistics in Australia and how young people can improve their chances of securing work and creating opportunities that add value to their career. 

The latest numbers on youth unemployment

Youth unemployment is a crisis Australia has been facing, more so in 2020 with the impact of COVID-19 affecting industries like retail and hospitality. Below are the recent statistics that describe the current labour market and how it has influenced the rate of youth unemployment.
  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), youth unemployment has risen from 0.9% to 15.6%. This rate is three times higher compared to the current labour market, which is 5.4%.
  • At the end of 2020, one in three young people in Australia were unemployed or under-employed. 
  • In June 2020, the rate of youth unemployment hit an all-time high of 16.4%. This was caused by the COVID-19 economic recession. 
  • Between February and May 2020, young people working in full-time positions fell by 10.1%. 

The effects of COVID-19 on the unemployment rate

closed covid-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has encouraged individuals, especially young people to pursue a new career. Some young people working in industries like entertainment and tourism were impacted the most, so perhaps COVID-19 has made them realise that their current career trajectory is no longer a viable option. Many Australians have felt anxious about finances, particularly those where their employment situation had changed.

Beyond Blue had an interview with Sarah, a financial counsellor from the National Debt Helpline and she mentions that the general themes she comes across from people calling is that they're in shock where they have lost their income - those who have "always worked and been self-sufficient." 

Other than financial stress, below are some of the effects of COVID-19 has had on the unemployment rate in Australia. 

1. More people are seeking a career change.

Career change has been on the cards for people in Australia since ING Bank reported that over three million individuals are thinking about pivoting into a different industry once the COVID-19 pandemic eventually phases out. 

However, some have seen the pandemic as a silver lining to change careers. For example, Jessica Nguyen had decades of work experience in public relations/marketing but was made unexpectedly redundant in March last year. Her first instinct was to look for another role in the marketing/PR field but nobody during lockdown was hiring at the time. 

Rather than spend her energy doing soulless job searching, she adjusted her focus and turned to her love for cooking, posting her recipes via Instagram stories. Jessica realised that she was gaining traction online and decided to use her skills as a brand manager to launch her own business as a food freelancer. She now creates content that ranges from recipe tutorials to Zoom cooking sessions.  

2. Unemployment has affected the self-confidence of the youth. 

2020 was a challenging year and even more so for the Australian youth. It's been reported by ABC news that one in three young Australians is unemployed or needing more hours, and the trend for this could last more than a decade.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence, an anti-poverty youth organisation has recognised the dire need for more job opportunities for the youth saying that they are facing a "double whammy of less-secure work", especially those working in industries where lockdown and social distancing restrictions apply like retail, gyms and hospitality. 

Chloe works in retail and administration in Rosebud (a town located on the outer edge of Melbourne) and she - like several others - was stood down from her role.

She said, "It was extremely hard. I got stood down from all the work I was doing so… no-one was hiring… and trying to find support financial wise was really hard."

3. Job security isn't as solid. 

With the economic downturn COVID-19 has created for Australians, job security is more of a comforting idea than actual reality. 

A recession plus the coronavirus lockdown have been the key ingredients of creating a challenging economic market and this will impact Young Australians even more, as most work in consumer-facing industries. 

For example, Qantas was previously making record profits back in 2018 but since the pandemic hit last year, the company made thousands of staff members redundant due to the losses made. The same can be said with universities since most rely on the enrolments of international students, which has halted due the restrictions of international travel. 

Where will the effects most likely be felt for young people?

The pandemic has certainly labelled Young adults as the "boomering generation" by media. It makes economic sense why Young Australians were drawn to moving back home in the pandemic due to the uncertainty of securing the next role and financial instability. 

However, the effects of youth unemployment can be felt more depending on an individual's location and work schedule. Here are some examples where young people may feel the repercussions of unemployment more so than others:

1. Regional and rural areas.

Unlike a suburban area, employment opportunities are not as wide in regional and rural areas, which can limit young people in finding work. Most young people work in consumer-facing industries like retail or hospitality and opportunities are sparse in a regional or rural area, making for tougher competition. 

2. Individuals in part-time and casual work.

Full-time work has plummeted since the pandemic, especially between February and May of last year, where the number of young people working full-time fell by 10.1%. Most young people are working part-time and casual work since the availability of full-time work has lessened due to the industries affected by the pandemic like entertainment or tourism. 

With more young people being employed on a part-time or casual basis, their employment situation may not be as secure, which can leave them behind in building their financial wealth than those that work full-time. 

3. Individuals in consumer-facing roles.

Industries like retail, hospitality and tourism have been impacted the most since the pandemic started. With social distancing restrictions and limited opportunities to travel interstate and internationally, young people who work in these industries have faced more redundancies than those working in fields where employment opportunities are vast like IT or community services. 

The history of youth unemployment in Australia

Older generations have been under the assumption that there is a linear pathway from childhood to adulthood, however, this hasn't been the case with youth unemployment being an issue with the changing patterns of the employment landscape.

Mission Australia's Youth Employment The Facts publication has some interesting facts that summarise the history of youth employment for Young Australians:
  • In 2005, 8% of 2.8 million young Australians were looking for employment. More than half of this group were not enrolled in full-time secondary or tertiary education. This meant that young people were unlikely to find secure and meaningful employment in the short term, increasing their risk of long-term unemployment or working casually for an indefinite period. 
  • The unemployment rate for Indigenous young Australians is twice that of non Indigenous youth. Key factors that contribute to this include lower participation rates in education, limited opportunities available in rural and remote areas and the lack of finances to support further education.
  • The 2001 Census revealed that over half of youth unemployment was concentrated in 10% of Australia's Local Government Areas. This means that youth unemployment was not distributed evenly across communities. Youth unemployment was more prevalent in rural and metropolitan locations. 
  • In 2005, working on a part-time schedule was more common for people under the age of 25 (46%). 

What are the opportunities and outlook for youth and employment? 

creative team of young people

While youth unemployment is an ongoing issue that has become more prevalent during COVID-19, there are still opportunities for young people to improve their chances of securing work. Below are some pathways for young Australians to take advantage of when looking for a new job. 

1. JobTrainer.

JobTrainer is a government initiative that has been rolled out on a state-by-state basis since October last year. If you fit into the 17-24 age group, you may be eligible in studying a free or low-cost course through a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) like Upskilled. Upskilling is a great way to get your foot in the door and securing employment as the relevant qualification gives you the skills and knowledge that employers want. 

2. Apprenticeships and Traineeships.

One of the benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship is that you get paid for the work that you do while also studying a relevant course. If you're a hands-on person that enjoys practical work experience, applying for an apprenticeship or traineeship program can help establish your professional network and be a great stepping stone in entering the workforce. 

3. Studying an online course.

If you want to study but want flexibility because you have other commitments that need to be looked after, an online course may be the best option if you want to upskill. Online study gives you the convenience you need to be able to work on your studies anywhere, anytime. By choosing an online course provider like Upskilled, you'll have a range of courses to choose from in business, community services and IT. 

4.  Pursuing roles within high-demand industries. 

Whether you're looking for a rewarding career in community services or want to build your technical skills in IT, these industries are considered to be in high-demand in Australia, with projected growth in the near future. By pursuing roles in industries where demand is strong, it can improve your chances of becoming employed in an area where you feel challenged and motivated to continue your education. 

Keep learning with Upskilled 

Are you a young person wanting to make a mark when it comes to your career trajectory? Upskilling may be your best option and by studying online, you'll have the flexibility of learning at a time that suits you. Explore Upskilled's excellent range of courses in business, community services and IT and learn how a qualification can help you get recognised by employers! 

Contact one of our friendly education consultants on 1300 009 924 and enquire on a course today. 
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