The group’s report details the geographic distribution of youth unemployment, identifying “hotspots” where young people are neither working nor in school, and typically have neither special skills nor a high school degree. But youth unemployment is not limited to those who lack the necessary qualifications. According to Nicholson, young job applicants with “three or four certificates” cannot find work despite submitting hundreds of applications.
Based on the ABS data, west and north-west Tasmania, which includes Burnie and Devonport, has the highest youth unemployment rate of 21 percent. Cairns in northern Queensland was next with 20.5 percent, followed by northern Adelaide, which includes Elizabeth and Gawler, with 19.7 percent.
Across northern Tasmania, job destruction has become an ongoing fixture of life. Since 2010, 1,114 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated, including 200 by mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar at its Burnie plant in February 2013. According to Burnie mayor Steve Kons, the job cuts are having a devastating effect, with a flow-on effect of another 1,000 job losses. Tracy Edington-Mackay from the Burnie Community House said she planned to refer families to emergency support services due to the lack of any other opportunities in the region. Tasmania as a whole has a population of just over half a million.
High youth unemployment in tropical Cairns is bound up with the slump in the tourism industry, a product of the global economic downturn, as well as a high Australian dollar. According to a 2012 study by the Australia Institute, the number of tourists visiting Cairns and far north Queensland had declined by 25 percent.
In northern Adelaide, the systemic closure of car production and related manufacturing has contributed to high unemployment in Elizabeth and Gawler, with terrible consequences for working people. One in four residents of Elizabeth relies on some form of social security. The median weekly income of a household in the area is just $595, compared with the national average of $1,234.
Other disaster regions include south-east Tasmania (19.6 percent), outback Northern Territory (18.5 percent), Launceston and north-east Tasmania (18.2 percent), Moreton Bay north, including the Brisbane suburbs of Caboolture and Redcliffe (18.1 percent), Wide Bay, including Bundaberg and Gympie in Queensland (17.6 percent), Hume in Victoria, including the Goulburn Valley, Wodonga and Wangaratta (17.5 percent), Mandurah in Perth, Western Australia (17.3 percent) and Parramatta in Sydney (16.8 percent).
This social crisis, although intensifying since 2008, is a product of the underlying pro-market restructuring of the economy, begun under the Hawke and Keating Labor governments of 1983–96, and deepened by each government since, both Labor and Liberal-National Coalition governments.
Full-time jobs have been increasingly replaced by part-time and casualised work. Young people are the worst-affected, forced into low-paid temporary or insecure work. During the so-called uninterrupted growth and prosperity from 1993 to 2008, no decent full time jobs were created for young people, and now they are the first to suffer the impact of the economic reversal.
In a comment entitled “Young, underemployed and unwanted” in the Australian Financial Review last September, associate professor David Walsh from Monash University noted: “The replacement of full-time jobs with part-time work has been occurring for decades. For example, the proportion of teenagers in part-time work, who were not in education, increased from 8.7 percent in 1986 to 30 percent in 2012. The proportion of 20- to 24-year-olds more than doubled during the same period—from 8.3 percent to just over 19 percent.”
These processes are far from unique to Australia. In the European Union, 25 percent of young people under 25 are officially unemployed—a total of 5.6 million.
A 2013 repo