Monday, October 13, 2014

Youth Unemployment Levels Risk a Lost Generation

Youth unemployment must be one of the highest priorities for all levels of Government if we are to secure our economic, skills, social and environmental future as a nation. The sad fact is youth unemployment has been rising over recent years on the watch of the free market neo liberal Federal and State Governments, whose policies of withdrawing investment from our manufacturing industry, cutting investment from our higher education, skills, TAFEs and secondary education sectors, proceeding with harsh welfare reforms, and ramping up migrant worker programs, are hurting Australian young peoples’ chances to find and keep a job.

Unemployment figures released on October 8th show Australia’s unemployment rate at 6.1%, with almost 30,000 jobs lost in September. The reason why the unemployment rate is not rising higher is because of a 0.2% fall in the participation rate to 64.5%. Victoria’s unemployment rate is at 6.8%, the highest in 13 years.  Unemployment in Victoria is growing 12 times faster than new jobs. It’s increased from 4.9 per cent in December 2010 to 6.8 per cent today. Almost 68,000 more people are out of work. Youth unemployment is at a 15 year high; on average as of July at 13.8% up from 12.3% last year.

As reported in the Moreland Leader (29/9/14) youth unemployment in the northwest is 17.2%, up from 13.1% last year, driven by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and job cuts in the retail and hospitality sectors. Compounding these issues are the cuts by the Liberal Government to our manufacturing industry, including Ford, Holden, and Toyota, such as the $500 million cut from the Automotive Transformation Scheme. The possible offshoring of Australia’s new submarine fleet will further hurt our manufacturing sector, along with the Government’s failure to develop a domestic gas industry. The billions of dollars in cuts by the Liberal Federal and State Governments to our skills, training, TAFE, higher education, secondary and primary education sectors will hamper job opportunities for young people. Punishing young people by making them ineligible for Centrelink New Start Allowance, will only place more obstacles rather than real job opportunities in front of young people.

The fact that the first job advertised for the East-West Link Tunnel Project is for a 457 Migrant Worker Visa Coordinator is extraordinary. Apparently it does not matter that Victoria has its highest unemployment rate in 13 years, apparently it does not matter that youth unemployment in Melbourne’s North-West is now over 17%, and apparently it does not matter that we already have over a million non-Australians in Australia on temporary visas which give them work rights.

Victoria’s economy has not been creating enough jobs to cope with the state’s booming population growth. Between December 2010 and August 2014, the number of working aged Victorians (aged 15 and over) swelled by 303,200, equivalent to 6,891 people added every month. Over that four year period to August 2014, manufacturing employment in Victoria dropped by 11,600. Over the same period, employment in construction fell by 13,900, while retail sector employment increased 21,300, healthcare employment by 29,100 and education and training employment by 8,000.
Victoria’s traditional manufacturing and large industry jobs base is evaporating. Even in these new emerging sectors such as health and education, young Victorians face stiff competition from overseas workers. Despite the rhetoric that high skilled migration is needed for the mining and agriculture sectors, the reality is a high proportion of migrant workers come to Victoria. The Skilled Migration Program grew from 125,755 places on 2011-12 to 128,973 in 2012-13. In 1995-96 the Skilled Migration Program was just 24,100. The Occupations with the highest number of primary visa grants were professionals (4,656 or 51.1%) and technicians and trade workers (2,416 or 26.5%) in the 457 Visa Class. Under the Skill Stream, there were professionals 6,083 (65.5%) and technicians and trades with 1,502 (16.2%). According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s State and Territory Migration Summary Report of March 2014, Victoria absorbed the second largest proportion of 457 visa grants in the first three quarters of 2013-14 with 23% or 17,432 people. Under the Skill Stream Victoria took in 19.3% (19,976 people).

Yet as reported by Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker in The Age on 7th August 2014, as many as 9 in 10 skilled migrant visas may be fraudulent. A 2010 investigation concluded that around 90 per cent or more than 40,000 visa applications in the General Skilled Migration Program lodged per year for the previous three years were suspect. A 2009 investigation concluded that the student visa program was failing, the general skilled migration program was failing, and the falsifying of qualifications was prolific.

Sir Robert Menzies said on 2nd October 1964 at the opening of Chrysler Manufacturing Centre in Tonsley Park South Australia:

“…I don’t need to be told that there are quite a number of people here, as I go around, who are what we used to call New Australians, who are people who migrated here since the war. There are millions now- anyhow, something well over one million- in Australia, and every large factory I go to contains a high percentage of people who have come in these years. There could not have been an immigration policy or programme without employment on this scale in industries of this kind. The rural industries, vital as they are to the survival of Australia, can’t employ people by the scores of thousands extra every year. We know they cant. It is industries of this kind which enable the migration programme to continue, and the fact that the migration programme continues, that you have remarkable increase in the population every year by year has given strength and tone and optimism to the people who run retail stores in Australia, to all sorts of other manufacturers who produce things that are in demand by stores and which are bought by them because they are in demand by their ordinary customers. This is the whole interwoven structure”.

That was Sir Robert Menzies. Now the Federal and State Liberal Governments are unravelling it. They’re keeping the migrant worker programs- indeed they’re bigger than ever, but they’re killing off manufacturing in general and the car industry in particular. Only a couple of weeks ago the Victorian Liberal Government was boasting that Victoria’s population has continued to grow at record levels, by 1.8% outstripping the 1.7% national average, growing by 108,757 people in the year to March 31, which consisted of 38,467 natural increase and 61,923 from net overseas migration and 8,367 from net interstate migration, to a total of 5.8 million Victorian’s. Mark my words, this is not going to end well for Australia.

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