Post written by Jane Hunt, former inaugural CEO at Fitted for Work.

More than a quarter of a million young Australians under the age of 25 are unemployed. This is almost three times the rate of unemployment for people aged 25 and over (1). Worryingly, the number is rising – the number of long-term unemployed young people has tripled since 2008 (2).

At Fitted for Work, 17% of the clients we assist are young women – some are graduates from University and TAFE courses like Jo, but the majority are early school-leavers who come from outer suburban, regional or rural areas where youth unemployment can be as high as 20%. This means that many of their peers aren’t working and they are really concerned about employment opportunities.

Mission Australia’s 2013 Youth Survey of 14,461 young people backs this up. It revealed that 1 in 4 young Australians believe there are insufficient opportunities in their local community for employment and job training after secondary school. Even more concerning was the finding that young women ranked equity and discrimination as the top issue facing the country, indicating concerns about workplace discrimination, racism and inequality.

It is understandable that the young women are concerned –  they are more likely to be not fully engaged in employment, education or training (28% of 23 year-olds) than young men (17% of 23 year-olds) (FYA, 2013).

This isn’t just a one-off worry – the Mission Australia survey shows that for the second year in a row, young people rank the economy and financial matters as the number one issue of national importance. They are worried about how they will make a living and prosper in a tight labour market. We expect that as young people they will just ‘bounce back’, but for many of them their resilience is faltering in the face of a future which seems closed to them.

All this despite the relative strength of the Australian economy.

So what can we do?

  • Support Fitted for Work to help young women develop employability skills through our vocational workshops, transition to work and mentoring programs
  • Offer a work experience placement in your organisation, or host a workplace visit
  • Become a mentor to a young person
  • Join FFW and other organisations in lobbying for careers, vocational guidance and work readiness skills to be integrated into the school curriculum.

And join me in reflecting that maybe it is not so easy being young at the moment.

1. Brotherhood of St Laurence, Investing in our Future, June 2014:3.

 2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014, Labour force April 2014, Cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra, data cube UM3 cited in Brotherhood of St Laurence, Investing in our Future (June 2014:9).