Fair Go for the Northern Rivers
Fair Go for the Northern Rivers Samantha Elley

Young job seekers doing it tough in regional areas

ONE in seven Northern Rivers youths cannot find work.

Across the Northern Rivers, 14.9% of people aged 15-24 are actively looking for work but can’t find a job.

The figure takes in Lismore, Ballina, Kyogle, Byron, the Richmond Valley and the Tweed and is double the 7.5% youth unemploy- ment rate in Brisbane’s west. The average youth unemployment rate across Brisbane is 10.36%.

Hard work finding a job

Government figures show young people have a harder time finding work in regional areas than in capital cities.

The unemployment rate for youth and adults combined in Lismore is 10.2% compared to Brisbane’s 5.2%.

The unemployment rate for youth and adults combined in Ballina is 6.7%, 11.1% in Kyogle, 10.5% in Byron and 11.3% in the Richmond Valley and in Tweed it is 8.4%.

According to advocacy group the Brotherhood of St Laurence, across the country 50,000 “long term unemployed” youth have been unable to find a job for a year.

Brotherhood public affairs and policy advisor Farah Farouque said there is not the “job density” in regional areas that there is in cities.

Unique problems to each region

Ms Farouque said the reasons behind youth unemployment were however often unique to each region.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to youth unemployment across Australia,” she said.

“The issues of youth unemployment have much to do with local job markets.”

Ms Farouque said the collapse of manufacturing industries and the mining downturn were leading to more unemployment in regional areas.

“Forty years ago you could get a start at a car production line,” she said.

“Even a job in farming has become much more complex and technologically focused.”

PATH to youth employment

The Federal Government last week announced the Prepare, Trial, Hire (PATH) youth employment program as part of the Budget. The program will allow unemployed young people to take up internships with businesses and receive $100 a week on top of any government unemployment allowances they receive.

The businesses will receive $1000 from the government for the 12-week internship and will be able to hire the intern at the end of the program but the program has come under fire from trade unions.

Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Dave Oliver warned businesses would exploit the system.

“Why would a business employ a minimum wage worker when the government is ready to supply them with free labour and a $1000 handout?” he said.

Ms Farouque said the Brotherhood supported the PATH program, declaring it would provide work experience for disadvantaged young job seekers.

But she said community based programs with the support of chambers of commerce and community groups were often better positioned to help address local youth unemployment.

“We can’t solve the problems of youth unemployment by announcing one government job program,” she said.

“If local chambers turn their heads to the problem there can be a real whole-of-community approach.”