In late April, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that young people and school leavers would be the first to face welfare cuts. Under the plan, set to come into effect in July, young people aged 16 to 20 without a year 12 qualification will need to be in either education or training if they are to qualify for Youth Allowance.
The same conditions must be met if the parents of young people want to receive family tax benefits on their children’s behalf. Rudd argues that this is to ensure young people don’t become the “long term unemployed of tomorrow” but in reality this is a cost cutting measure and an attack on the welfare state.
In effect Rudd has implied that young people are lazy and don’t want to work. This is a total myth. Many young people are forced to hold down numerous jobs just to pay their way through school or university. Unlike when Rudd went to university it is no longer free! Other young people have been forced to drop out of high school due to necessity not because of laziness.
Currently there is only 78,259 people aged 16 to 20 who are not studying or in training programs. The Youth Allowance they receive starts at a mere $203.30 per fortnight. The main reason that young people are not studying or out of work is because education is costly and apprenticeships are becoming scarcer as the economic crisis takes hold. For those lucky enough to find an apprenticeship they are locked into to poverty wages for up to four years.
While having people in education and training is a good thing, any increase needs to be matched with extra funding. So far no new funding has been announced to deal with this increase and no details have been released about the type of training that would be provided. Most likely people will be pushed into dodgy traineeships that don’t lead to jobs. Conveniently for Rudd, forcing young people into training programs also masks the real unemployment figures.
The reason there is not enough jobs is because companies are cutting costs as the recession starts to bite. It is not the fault of young people that unemployment is rising, it’s the fault of the system. Entitlement to welfare payments should be a right for people of all ages. If there are no proper jobs available then the state should provide people with a living income.
Cutting welfare payments to young people is the thin edge of the wedge. It starts with young people but others will be next. If we allow the government to take away these payments it sets a precedent that says it is ok to stop providing funding to all of those who truly need it. The Socialist Party opposes all welfare cuts, to the young, old and in between. This attack on young people is an attack on all of us.
Far from solving the problems of youth unemployment and poverty, Rudd’s plan will only make things worse. The real solution is to provide guaranteed jobs with decent wages for all. If education was free, and of high quality, there would be no need to force people back to school. All that these cuts do is use education and training as an excuse to wind back support for those who need supporting the most.
By Socialist Party reporters