Finance Work The four policy changes that will break intergenerational joblessness

The four policy changes that will break intergenerational joblessness

Young workers enjoying their work.
Growing up with jobless parents can hurt your chances of employment. Photo: Getty
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Children growing up in homes where both parents battle joblessness are more likely to struggle finding work, but new research could change that.

In 2017 alone, 11.6 per cent of Australian children had at least one jobless parent, ABS data shows.

“This sizeable proportion is a source of concern given the strong correlation between parents’ employment status and their children’s labour market outcome,” the report said.

In cases where neither parent is in paid employment, referred to as ‘dual-parent joblessness’, many children are often exposed to “a lifelong cycle of deprivation that persists across generations”.

In general, 40 per cent of children who experience parental joblessness growing up will themselves become jobless at some point in adulthood, the report found.

Additionally, children who experience dual-parent joblessness have a 12 per cent higher probability of becoming jobless.

But the researchers found this cycle of joblessness can be broken through more targeted policy making that addresses the root causes.

Four main policy changes were identified:

  • Better childcare support: Increased childcare benefits and paid parental leave schemes can help get parents back into the workforce
  • More generous family benefits: Increasing child tax benefits and other social security programs reduces the likelihood of joblessness passing from one generation to the next. The researchers found a one per cent increase in a household’s disposable income reduces a child’s chance of joblessness by 3 per cent
  • University qualifications: Receiving a university education makes joblessness less likely, not just because of the training the degree offers, but by helping young Australians build their professional network

  • Improved training opportunities: Helping young Australians to access free, extra-curricular programs to build their skills can have “lifelong benefits”.

Level playing field, but not yet a win

Speaking to The New Daily, Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the research marks a positive step in fighting youth unemployment.

Making the suggested changes would help many disadvantaged young Australians to compete better for jobs, Ms Chambers said.

But the changes will do nothing to address the greater problem of declining numbers of suitable, entry-level jobs for young workers, she added.

“It’s a zero-sum game at the moment,” Ms Chambers said.

“You can’t get someone into work without somebody else falling out. We can help prepare people and make them as job ready as we’d like, but the actual jobs just aren’t there.”

In essence, the changes proposed by the research would put young people on an equal footing to compete for jobs that simply don’t exist.

Callam Pickering, economist with jobs site Indeed, agreed that entry-level roles for younger workers are becoming harder to find.

“One of the big reasons that youth unemployment has stayed so high is that the jobs young people traditionally took are growing more slowly, and in some cases going backwards,” he said.

“Now, young Australians are competing for some of these jobs with people who are around age 30, and when given the choice between a fresh teenager and a more experienced worker, businesses will hire the experienced one.”

In some cases, young workers are even competing with workers aged over 55 as older Australians increasingly return to work.

As a result, the unemployment rate for Australians aged 15 to 24 is currently about 12 per cent, higher than the national rate of 5.3 per cent.

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