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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3213

Mr LANGMORE —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and relates to youth unemployment. Do the commonly publicised youth unemployment rates relate to the proportion of 15- to 19-year-olds who are in the labour force or to the proportion of the whole population of youth in that age group? If the former, does this give an inflated impression of the extent of youth unemployment, because over 60 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds are attending an educational institution? What proportion of all 15- to 19-year-olds are now unemployed, and what has been the unemployment trend in that age group during the last four years?

Mr WILLIS —It is the case, as the honourable member implies, that the unemployment figures for youth which are published are often misrepresented by those who see those figures as meaning that 23 per cent of teenagers are unemployed. In fact, of course, that is a total misrepresentation of the youth unemployment situation. In saying that, one is not in any way asserting that there is not a problem of youth unemployment, and it is a problem about which the Government is greatly concerned and which we have taken various steps to deal with, in the way I mentioned earlier in Question Time today. But it is the fact nevertheless that it is quite wrong to suggest that something like 23 per cent of teenagers are unemployed. If one looks at the total teenage population, as the honourable member for Fraser indicates, one finds that a lot of teenagers are in education and, more interestingly, some of those people-about 10,000 of them-who show up as unemployed are in fact in educaton full time but nevertheless are looking for a full time job.

The reality of the situation is, therefore, that if one looked at the proportion of total teenagers who were unemployed, one would have a figure not of 23 per cent but, on the latest figures available to me, of 9.2 per cent. That is a fairer indication of the proportion of teenagers who are without jobs, but even then it must be borne in mind that of that 9.2 per cent some who are described as unemployed are in fact full time at school or in some other educational institution. So the picture of youth unemployment is often overblown. That is not to say there is not a problem of considerable dimensions, although the number of teenage unemployed is considerably less now than it was when this Government came to office. The declining trend in youth employment has been reversed. There has been an increase in youth employment since this Government has been in office. The youth unemployment rate has come down. There is still certainly a need for it to drop much further, and the steps that we have in train will help us in that regard and to continue to make substantial progress in this important area.