Open letter regarding Illawarra/Shoalhaven youth unemployment

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May 25, 2018

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An open letter regarding Illawarra Shoalhaven Youth Employment Issues

The Youth Health and Wellbeing Consortium brings together leaders and influencers across the health, education and social services sectors all with a commitment to work together to improve health, mental health, social and economic outcomes for young people in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region.
Recently, the group heard from young people involved with the Youth Reference Groups of headspace Wollongong and headspace Nowra around Youth unemployment across the region.
In exploring this issue further, data on the issue was reviewed.
A review conducted by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (January 2018) revealed the nation’s top 20 hotspots for Youth unemployment. The Southern Highlands/Shoalhaven region (taking in Nowra and Ulladulla) has a youth unemployment rate of 28.9%. This compares to the national youth unemployment rate of 12.2% and places the region second on the top 20 list. As the report highlights, this rate has worsened by over 10 percentage points over that last 2 years.
The Illawarra region fairs somewhat better with a 2 year average rate of 15.7%, however, this is still above both the average youth unemployment rate for regional areas (13.4%) and the state average (data taken from NSW Parliamentary Research Service, Illawarra Labour Force Trends, Sept 2015)
On top of the difficulty young people experience in finding a job, the tight job market appears to have made an environment that is more open to concerning employment practices amongst local businesses.
Member agencies have heard from young people accessing our services with examples of:
 Young people being encouraged to participate in unpaid ‘work trials’ as a pre-requisite for moving onto paid work- which may then not eventuate,
 Young people being paid ‘off the books’ and at rates well below the award, and
 Poor or no compliance to mandatory employer superannuation contributions.
Last month The National Retail Association urged the commission to give “full and genuine consideration” to awarding a zero increase, which would result in a real pay cut if endorsed by the commission. Stagnation of wages, rising youth unemployment in parts of our region and evidence of poor employment practices are putting the wellbeing of our young people at risk.
As a local peak bodies, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Business Chambers are well placed to have a positive influence on these trends with member businesses and policy makers. The Youth Health and Wellbeing Network is proposing that we work together with the Business Chamber and the Regional Advisory Council to investigate these issues more fully in order to ensure that young people in the region have access to a fair pay and working conditions in an already tight employment market. The Policy and Advisory role of the chamber includes the pursuit of Social Progress. Surely such a noble objective should not ignore the plight of young people as they seek to make a contribution to the future of our region.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you.
Kind regards
Ron de Jongh
On behalf of the
Youth Health and Wellbeing Consortium
The Consortium is members include the following organisations: Grand Pacific Health, ISLHD, Illawarra Drug and Alcohol Service, headspace Wollongong and Nowra,  Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, ACSO, Lifeline South Coast, Southern Youth and Family Service, Northfields Clinic- University of Wollongong, Relationships Australia, WEA Illawarra

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