Youth Unemployment

By Phil Craig

I have grown up, resided, and worked in the Western Sydney region for my entire life, I have firsthand experienced the struggles of finding employment that works around my studies. Finding such a job is just the first part of this struggle, however, retaining employment outside of a short fixed term casual contract and being rostered enough hours to meet basic needs is rarely a guarantee.

The social impacts of Covid-19 have been felt by all Australians. Increased isolation due to social distancing restrictions has had negative impacts on people’s ability to maintain relationships, positive mental health and their personal wellbeing. Despite economic stresses also being widespread across the nation, the level of disadvantage is not equally experienced.

As young people generally lack the skills, qualifications and experience of their older counterparts to negotiate higher wages, secure and sufficient working hours are essential to maintaining a basic standard of living. Providing the most basic wants and necessities such as a stable home, a decent income and the ability to maintain social networks can become difficult when youth are unable to gain necessary skills and experience, and in turn cannot access ideal working hours. These challenges are even further exacerbated by the increasing rental stress and cost of living in Sydney.

The collapse of manufacturing, retail and clerical jobs in the region significantly lowered the availability of local entry-level jobs for young people. Young people in Western Sydney with lower levels of educational attainment are more likely to find casual jobs that require low skill sets and offer little security. The NSW Treasury has projected that unemployment rates in the state will be the worst seen in 23 years, rising to 7.5% by the end of 2020 and that this will take years to recover.  Due to job-losses across the whole population, youth are now likely to be competing for precarious positions with older Australians who have lost their jobs.

Youth living in Western Sydney being disadvantaged within the Australian labour market is not a new trend. Compared to the general unemployment rates in NSW of around 7%, youth unemployment in Sydney’s South-West is nearly tripled at 20.7%. Youth unemployment and underemployment represent an under-utilisation of the labour force and wasted opportunity for an entire generation of young people to experience secure, meaningful work which has been evident since the Global Financial Crisis and has been further exacerbated by Covid-19.

Young Australians living in particular pockets of Western Sydney seem to be disproportionately disadvantaged. This is exemplified in ABS statistics from July which identifies that even in Western Sydney’s city centres the problem of youth unemployment is still evident, including Parramatta (15.8%) and Blacktown (15.4%). This is shocking when making the comparison to regions such as the Eastern Suburbs (7.2%) and the Sutherland Shire (4.5%).

Between 2016 and 2019 Western Sydney saw a boom in jobs is driven by a strong increase in the population driven by record levels of migration. This was a short term relief for the unskilled workers of the region who have faced many challenges due to the changing labour market which has seen a shift towards the casualisation of the workforce. Jobs for recent graduates, our young professionals are scarce in the Western Sydney region, forcing many to commit to a costly daily commute or to compete for the limited number of opportunities in the local area. More must be done to ensure that suitable opportunities exist for all young Australians.

About the Author | Phil Craig

Phil is a former SRC member currently studying a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy in Counselling at WSU. He currently works casually with the PASS team and spends his spare time training in martial arts and teaching boxing at high schools.