STAY POSITIVE: Jenna Pettiford, Brooklyn Walker and Charlotte Hockings – three apprentices hairdressers at Clare’s Hair Together and True Beauty – ask young jobless to stay positive.
STAY POSITIVE: Jenna Pettiford, Brooklyn Walker and Charlotte Hockings – three apprentices hairdressers at Clare’s Hair Together and True Beauty – ask young jobless to stay positive. Michael Cormack

Southern Downs youth struggle as jobless rate rises

A GROWING number of Southern Downs residents are relying on unemployment benefits and Youth Allowance - a trend that could result in more long-term unemployment.

Almost 1000 of the region's residents were on Newstart and Youth Allowance in January - with the increase from December 2014 among the highest in the state.

But one of Clare's Hair Together and True Beauty' five apprentices, Charlotte Hockings, said she felt it was not all doom and gloom for young jobseekers.

"This was the first place I put my resume in and I got a job here," she said.

"I can't say I also know of too many friends who have struggled to find work.

"I think if you get out there and put your resume in to places, you give yourself the best chance to find a job."

Department of Social Services figures show 544 people were on Newstart unemployment and Youth Allowance in Warwick in January, and 439 in Stanthorpe.

The numbers represent a 7.1% increase of people on the two benefits in Warwick, and 7.6% increase in Stanthorpe - higher than the state-wide increase and higher than most major cities. The increase was reflected state-wide - after an increase in Queensland's unemployment rate to start 2015.

Clare's Hair Together and True Beauty owner Clare Jeffries, who employs five apprentices or trainees, said she felt the government had made it more difficult for small businesses to take on apprentices and trainees.

"I think both the state and federal governments need to look at how they can make it easier for small businesses," Mrs Jeffries said.

"A lot of the costs for apprentices and trainees have been pushed on to the owners of businesses.

"Because of that I think a lot of other small businesses have probably cut or taken on fewer apprentices."

Queensland University of Technology senior economic lecturer Dipa Sarkar said the increase was reflective of growing youth unemployment across regional Queensland.

"Youth unemployment is ... much worse in regional Queensland," she said.

"Regional areas are much more dependent on certain sectors to perform - and when they struggle that means less jobs."

Dr Sarkar denied the rise was due to less jobs after Christmas or people signing up to Youth Allowance prior to Christmas.

Instead she said the rise was in line with the growing unemployment rate.

Dr Sarkar said growing youth unemployment could result in a long-term struggle to get work.

"This could be more long term than short term. When people, especially young people, struggle to get work it's almost like a black mark against them," she said.

"If you're not able to find a job then it can be harder and harder to do so.

"Which leads to people on these benefits for some time. It can become a spiral."

Dr Sarkar said government initiatives aimed at reducing youth unemployment were working well.

She said she expected the schemes would have an impact on youth unemployment in coming years.

Newstart is an unemployment benefit paid to people over 22 who meet income and asset tests and are looking for paid work. Youth Allowance is a benefit for unemployed 16 to 21-year-olds, full time students aged between 18 and 24 or 16 to 24-year-olds undertaking a full-time apprenticeship.

Benefits

Stanthorpe: 439 people on benefits - up 7.6% since December

Warwick: 544 on benefits - up 7.1%

Toowoomba: 2570 on benefits - up 7.5%

Goondiwindi: 422 on benefits - down 0.2%

Youth on benefits 'a worrying trend'

GROWING unemployment has a larger cost than just to the government bottom line, a social sector group has warned.

Queensland Council of Social Service chief Mark Henley said growing unemployment was an ongoing issue.

"It is always concerning to see unemployment and the number of youth having to rely on benefits rise," he said.

"Employment is a critical stepping stone to social and economic wellbeing.

"Government, industry and the community sector have a joint role to play in addressing these statistics by working together to create jobs and support people into them."

Mr Henley said the cost of people being out of work had far-reaching effects on society.

"Unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment, has an enormous impact on both individuals, families and their communities," he said.

"The cost is not simply the unemployment benefit but the often associated issues of homelessness, ill health, domestic violence and mental health.

"One approach that has been proven to work is where the investment is directed into flexible employment and skill development programs with specialist case management support.

"In the past these sorts of programs have demonstrated that investment brings strong financial returns to the economy within 12 months and outlays for health, social services and the justice system are reduced."

 

- APN NEWSDESK


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