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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21478

Ms GEORGE (2:24 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware that youth unemployment in the Wollongong region is a staggering 34.6 per cent? Minister, what is the government doing to address the ongoing problems of high rates of youth unemployment in the Illawarra? Minister, why has the government refused to fund the Illawarra apprenticeship pilot program, which would tackle both youth unemployment and growing skills shortages?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the honourable member for Throsby for her question. In relation to youth unemployment, whilst any level is far too high—and I think we could all agree about that—the rate of youth unemployment in Australia has nonetheless fallen substantially. If one looks at the number of teenagers who are unemployed and looking for full-time work, the latest figures indicate that there are some 66,000 at the present time. That compares with the teenage full-time unemployment rate between 1989 and 1996 of more than double that—133,300. The reality is that everybody would like to see the lowest level of unemployment, whether it is for young people or for older workers. But I have to say to the honourable member that in general terms any fair reading of the data in relation to this indicates that the measures that this government has been taking have led to a substantial reduction in relation to youth unemployment.

Ms Macklin —The unemployed part.

Mr ANDREWS —I am responding to the interjection by the Leader of the Opposition. Most of the young people in Australia are in education. There are some in work and unfortunately, as the member points out, there is still a number who are unemployed, but those figures have come down under the measures put in place by this government. Indeed, when one looks at places like Wollongong, one sees that there was a much higher level. I am looking at a cutting taken from the Sunday Herald Sun on 3 May 1992 where it says that youth unemployment in industrial centres like Wollongong was 55 per cent. I understand the honourable member for Throsby's concern about reducing the level of youth unemployment but, by the same token, 33 or 34 per cent, which is far too high, is a far cry from the 55 per cent it was under the Labor Party.