Anglicare is warning of serious social problems caused by high youth unemployment in Canberra.
The social welfare agency has just released a study finding very few entry-level jobs in the capital.
Analysing job advertisements, the study found less than 15 per cent of advertised jobs in Canberra were at entry level and of those, a further six out of 10 were categorised as “highly casualised” or with little opportunity for progression.
The study found that moving from unemployment into part-time or casual work was not associated with a transition to “stable or skilled employment”.
The researchers also conducted focus groups with Canberra youths and found “churning through short-term low-skilled jobs” was associated with “marginal job trajectory” and personal networks were key to finding work.
Job seeker Kathleen Walczuk, 27, has been unemployed since 2012, despite completing a qualification in hospitality at TAFE.
She has a mild physical and intellectual disability and has worked for three different employers in low-skilled jobs in the past, including at Target for a year and a half.
She has been keenly looking for work and is on the books of disability employment agencies, but to no avail.
Pieta Manning, from Anglicare, which supports some disabled young people, including Ms Walczuk, said it was getting harder for her clients to find jobs.
She said she was now encouraging them to build their social networks to score work.
Anglicare NSW South, West and ACT chief executive Jeremy Halcrow said he was seriously concerned by the lack of entry-level jobs and stable employment for youth in the ACT, saying it would lead to mental-health issues and other social problems.
The youth unemployment rate is sitting at 11.3 per cent for people aged 15 to 24 in the ACT, and it is estimated there are two to three people seeking work for every job vacancy in the territory, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The ACT job market growth is pegged at 4.7 per cent over 2013-18, compared with 7.6 per cent for other Australian cities over the same period, according to 2014 Department of Employment figures.
Mr Halcrow said he was seeing an increase in youth unemployment, a trend he expects to worsen in the short term.
“We have a relatively large population of tertiary students, who are competing with school leavers for entry-level jobs,” he said.
“We are questioning some job service providers who simply ask people to look for jobs on the internet. We believe it would be better if support agencies asked young people to look for internships and work experience,” Mr Halcrow said.
The report also commented on the proposed changes to the dole, saying increased penalties for long-term unemployed youth would increase difficulties finding work for young people who lacked supportive networks.
The report called instead for “targeted” employment support for vulnerable young people and for the health and social assistance sector – big employers in the ACT – to provide more employment progression pathways for their low-skilled workers.
Anglicare is a provider of the Youth Connections school-to-work transition program that lost its funding in the May federal budget.
Although the federal government signalled it would drop some of its more controversial proposed welfare changes, it launched a tender process for a new $5.1 billion work-for-the-dole scheme in October.
Under the changes, those under 30 would be required to do 25 hours of work a week for six months a year, Employment Services Minister Eric Abetz said.
This article first appeared on ‘Canberra Times’ on 16 October 2014.