Early this week, Australia was rocked by the news that youth under-employment was at its highest point in nearly forty years. New data revealed that more than fifteen percent of Australia’s youth would like to work more hours than they are currently given. It’s more evidence of a slowing economy and its serious impact on those less experienced workers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet against enormous odds.

The research, commissioned by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence Welfare Group, has found that over three hundred thousand young Aussies only have casual or part-time work when they are ready, willing and able to work longer hours in full-time positions. When you add two hundred thousand officially unemployed youths to the statistics, it’s a truly grim view of modern life as a young Australian. Nearly half a million new workers and citizens are living life on a remarkably thin line.

This will come as no surprise to a generation not used to feeling useful. The politicians and talking heads have long employed ‘anti-youth’ messages as a divisive political manoeuvre, but the recent onset of conservatism in Australia has renewed an anti-welfare sentiment not seen since the Howard Government. Then, as is becoming the case now, Australia’s youth felt unfairly demonised by a mainstream culture not willing to give them a turn at the wheel.

In the current climate, it must sometimes feel as though the walls are caving in. Even Federal support, long the prerogative of generations of students and young employees, is in doubt. On Budget night, the Federal Liberal Government announced measures which would effectively cut the Newstart Allowance for those under the age of thirty. So far, efforts to affect such changes have been blocked in the Senate and generally met with less than rousing public support.

It seems most Australians understand the difficulties of youth, especially in an ever-changing working environment. Where the current generation’s parents had the security of affordable education and gainful, long term employment, the younger generation is looking at an ageing workforce and a marketplace not yet ready for their input. Housing is expensive, living costs are at all time highs and our educational system is on the brink of ruin.

And this in all in light of one, often-overlooked factor: young Australians are, first and foremost, Australian citizens. They vote and exercise their political rights. They pay taxes and contribute to the building of our society. They suffer under the law in the same way as older people, and are not treated differently in our courts or under statute. In fact, young Australians have a right to the support and future they are owed, the same as any Australian since welfare reform was introduced in the nineteen forties. They should not be treated differently at the law or subjected to a new set of standards. Instead, they should expect to be treated the same as any other citizen.

Let’s hope the future of younger Australians remains as bright as the great promise of our fair and just society.


 

This article was brought to you by Advanced Building Engineers, a firm of chartered professional engineers based in Perth.

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