OUTRAGE: Protesters are pushed back by police as thousands of university students from the University of Sydney and UTS march through the CBD against the Abbott Government’s budget measures last week.
OUTRAGE: Protesters are pushed back by police as thousands of university students from the University of Sydney and UTS march through the CBD against the Abbott Government’s budget measures last week. DAN HIMBRECHTSAAP

Youth let down by budget and years of bad govt decisions

GREY-haired cynics will tell you why semi-literate, semi-numerate, foul-mouthed, disinterested 17-year-olds are wandering around our school grounds.

The Youth Allowance can be hard to get unless they've completed Year 12 so we've had decades of kids in our schools who would have once left Years 11 and 12 to those who wanted to achieve something in life.

Why? To keep them out of unemployment statistics.

That was an end in itself.

Worked for a while, too, when there were menial jobs and even apprenticeships around that could get kids off the dole and into work, admittedly two years later than their parents.

Doesn't work anymore though, as youth unemployment is at a 15-year high and climbing.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, at 27.8% unemployment among 15-19 year olds is its highest since late 1998 when Australia was just beginning to fight its way out of Paul Keating's recession we had to have.

But what about the critical 15-24 year old age group? Fifteen and a half percent, 262,000 people, in April 2014.

Add to that the damning statistic that nearly half the age group works part-time and are not therefore counted as unemployed.

It now takes 26 weeks on average for this cohort to find work, doubling the time that it took in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis.

Critical, because those over 21 are on adult wages and need to be contributing to tax revenue, both income tax and GST, to help Australia cope with the cost demands of an ageing population.

So what's the Abbott government's answer? In typical populist sloganeering mode, "earn or learn" has become the new mantra.

If you want to move from the paltry Youth Allowance to a Newstart Allowance - AKA the dole - then you'll have to wait until you're 24.

But that's only part of the new deal.

As you're under 30, you will have to demonstrate "appropriate job search and participation in employment services support" for six months before receiving either the Youth Allowance or the dole.

Once you get it you'll be required to devote 25 hours per week in the work for the dole program.

I'm sure there are heaps of youngsters in any generation for whom a life on the rock'n'roll has its attractions but I'm equally sure that the figure would not be anywhere near as high as 27.8% or 15.4% of them, depending on the grouping.

It's a dreadful situation and punishing them for being affected by decades of government failure to give them the skills to provide immediate value to employers is just plain wrong.

Having them babysat by degree qualified teachers in high schools "learning" soft stuff like macrame and puppetry is obviously not the answer.

Neither is punishment for something they have no control over.

Aside from that, work for the dole schemes have failed all over the world to improve skills or employability.

They just sound good to constituents.

Of course these youngsters shouldn't expect much help with the "learn" side of the ledger either.

Financial support programs for students wanting a tertiary education (HECS and HELP) have also been gutted in the budget, not to mention the inevitable rise in the cost of tertiary education with the announced privatisation of universities.

Bob Lamont is director of Corporate Accountants situated at the Night Owl centre. He can be contacted on boblamont1947@gmail.com.



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