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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1598

Senator CHANEY —My question is to the Minister for Education and it follows the answer she has given about the very welcome increase in retention rates among young Australians at school-something that is certainly welcomed by the Opposition. Given that increase in retention rates, how does she explain the increase in unemployment in the same group, given that a smaller proportion of that age group are now available for employment because more of them are studying? Since the Priority One: Young Australia program commenced there has been an increase of several percentage points in youth unemployment. What policy failures can she point to to explain that?

Senator RYAN —The answer to that is somewhat complex. It is current practice to express youth unemployment in terms of the percentage of young people who are seeking employment.

Senator Walsh —In the labour market.

Senator RYAN —That is right.

Senator Chaney —But there are fewer in the labour market.

Senator RYAN —I do not think I need Senator Chaney's assistance. If he wants to answer his own questions, why does he not do so while he is on his feet? The fact of the matter is that the measured rate of unemployment for young people is often interpreted to be a proportion of the whole age cohort. I am not quite sure what the current measured rate is, but say it was 12 or 15 per cent, it is often understood to mean that is 15 per cent of all young people in the age cohort. In fact, the actual figure is 8.8 per cent. What we are looking at is a decreasing number of young people on the labour market-

Senator Teague —Youth unemployment is 25 per cent.

Senator RYAN —Why does Senator Teague not pay attention to this? Because more and more young people are staying on at school, taking up traineeships or doing technical and further education courses, and because the increasing participation has been so enormous, the young people who are now on the labour market, say in the 16- and 17-year-old group, are the least qualified young people and therefore, understandably, have a harder time finding employment than would young people who had more education and more capacity. So we are looking at a narrower range of young people who are now unemployed.

I remind the Senate that the statistics sound high because they apply only to those who are seeking employment. They are not statistics which are the rate for the entire age cohort. So because we have seen a dramatic improvement in school retention rates, TAFE participation and so on, we are seeing the least able to be employed young people in that age group actually seeking employment and therefore having a great deal of difficulty. Our response to this is to try to develop more options, such as staying on at school, traineeships and various TAFE courses, so that youth unemployment in that teenage group will eventually disappear.