The Labour Force data for February released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Australia of 5.2 per cent.
The unemployment rate in Western Australia is 4 per cent, the lowest in the nation and down from 4.2 per cent previously. While this paints an apparent picture of prosperous times for all, there is a cohort of the WA community facing alarming levels of unemployment given the unprecedented boom conditions we are experiencing currently. That cohort is youth aged 15 to 19 years.
The overall full-time unemployment rate in February for youth aged 15 – 19 in the state is 17.9 per cent, down marginally from 18 per cent in January and an increase from the same month in 2011 when the rate was 17.1 per cent.
More worryingly however, is the current rate of full-time unemployed youth in the southwest region of Western Australia, which is currently sitting at 27 per cent, a drop of only 1.1 per cent since the January 2012 high of 28.1 per cent. This also represents an increase on the rate from February 2011, which was 21.5 per cent and a startling increase since 2009, when the rate in this same region was just 15 per cent.
Simone McGurk the Secretary of UnionsWA, said that while any improvement in the number of unemployed youth in the south west, as well as elsewhere in the state, is welcomed, the figure of 27 per cent announced this week is still unsatisfactorily high.
“Youth unemployment in the southwest metro area has steadily increased from 15 per cent in February 2009 to a new high of 28.1 per cent in January this year.
“These figures reinforce the fact that the benefits of WA’s resources construction boom are not flowing through to all members of the community.
“With projects like Gorgon and Wheatstone now under construction and requiring hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fabricated steel, the fabrication workshops in Kwinana should be booming and creating jobs and apprenticeships for young people who live in the area.
“Instead, we are seeing many fabrication contracts head offshore, and local kids are missing out. This is a problem now, but it will also have long term economic effects for WA, as young workers miss out on the opportunity to develop skills and experience that could drive new industries and jobs beyond the resources boom. ” Ms McGurk added.
A report released in October 2011 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) into youth unemployment around the world, warns that the consequences of mass unemployment in youth can be dire. They include increased crime rates, increased drug use, and depression.
The consequences for the state government of a youth unemployment rate of 27 per cent in the south metro region of WA are disturbing to say the least.
But these figures also come at a time when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has reported an increase in business investment in Western Australia of 28 per cent in 2011.
Surely an unemployment rate of 27 per cent for people aged 15 – 19 years of age, in a region renowned for its strong manufacturing history, should be considered as a disgrace.