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Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Bleak future for young people under Abbott

Reading Time: 3 minutes

New statistics have shown the official unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds in Australia is a staggering 13.9%! While the real figure would be much higher, this is more than double the overall national rate of 6.3%. It hasn’t been higher since the late 1990s.

By Tim Tran, Socialist Party

At the same time one in three young people in the labour market have work but want more hours. This rate of underemployment is at its highest since the statistics were first available in 1978. While Australia is still yet to feel the full force of the global economic crisis young people are already doing it hard.

On many fronts the future for young people under the Abbott Government looks bleak. Even those who decide to increase their employment prospects by studying are finding things difficult. The proportion of unemployed people with some type of tertiary qualification has increased since 2010.

Making matters worse studying is not cheap. Many students end up racking up debts of tens of thousands of dollars for university courses. The deregulation of TAFE in many states has also led to increased TAFE fees.

If the Liberal Government is allowed to have its way this situation will get even worse. They have been pushing to deregulate university fees which some people warn could lead to $100,000 degrees. While the bill to deregulate university fees failed to get through the Senate last month the government have said that they have plans to bring the bill back again soon.

Most people oppose the plan as they rightly see this as an attempt to further undermine public education. The government and most university managements however support the moves as it would further commercialise the sector.

If you wanted to avoid being burdened with a $100,000 university debt and were looking to survive on welfare until the employment situation picked up, think again. Adding indult to injury the government has said that they want to implement measures to wind back welfare for young people.

The proposed changes include a wait time of up to 6 months before people can receive financial support through Newstart or Youth Allowance. People will also be forced to look for at least 10 jobs a fortnight.

With around 10 unemployed people competing for each job there just clearly isn’t enough work around. Despite this the government is hell bent on forcing young people to look for jobs that don’t exist. These punitive measures are designed to limit access to unemployment benefits either forcing people to work for poverty wages or to seek assistance from friends and family.

Just like the so-called logic behind deregulating university fees, these welfare policies are designed to make ordinary people pay for a crisis that they didn’t create. While we are expected to foot the bill for gaps in the budget, big business is given tax cuts and corporate subsidies.

The truth is that enormous amounts of wealth exists in Australia and if it were distributed more equally there would be no need for any cuts to welfare or education. If taxes were increased on big business and the rich billions of dollars could be raised to spend on free education and the creation of thousands of new jobs.

Job creating projects could include upgrades to public transport, the shift to renewable energy, decreasing class sizes in schools and providing decent, affordable housing. Work could be shared out without a loss in pay in order to wipe out unemployment and underemployment.

These types of policies run contrary to the aims of the major parties that defend the interests of big business. If young people in Australia want a future that does not include poverty, misery and debt they will need to fight against the major parties and for an alternative to the profit driven capitalist system.

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