Outback SA tops youth unemployment rate figures

Youth unemployment (those aged 15-24) across the whole country is at crisis point.
Youth unemployment (those aged 15-24) across the whole country is at crisis point.

Alarming new figures reveal outback South Australia has topped the list for the highest rate of youth unemployment, coming in at first place across the nation.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) released the data earlier this month, which revealed outback South Australia has a staggering youth unemployment rate of 29.8 per cent.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said youth unemployment (15-24 year-olds) across the whole country was at a crisis point.

"The national youth unemployment rate is currently at its highest levels in 13 years, and in many regions the picture is even bleaker," he said.

While labelling outback SA's result "disappointing", Federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey defended the SA region, suggesting the figures could be attributed to the large percentage of unemployed youth based in remote Aboriginal communities.

"Providing jobs in remote communities where there is no natural economic base is a problem faced by many remote indigenous communities and requires different solutions to urban employment," he said.

"That is a problem, but not necessarily the same problem."

Echoing the recurring theme of the 2014 federal budget, Mr Ramsey suggested young people who are looking for work need to be a little more open-minded.

"What I would like to see is our workforce and our unemployed to be suitably skilled and willing to go to where the work is," he said.

"If you're able, young, not too many ties, you are able to go where the work is - and we will help you to do that.

"And if you're not suitably trained, well you'll be able to get a loan to help you get the training, so I think that's what we're trying to focus on - making sure we can marry up those people that don't have jobs with the positions that are available."

The CFMEU has since pointed the finger at federal policies which allow employers to access exploited overseas labour in favour of young jobseekers; ie '457' Visas.

Mr O'Connor said the government's plan to expand the 457 Visa program by watering down the requirement on employers to first seek locally qualified workers would have a direct impact on young people.

An analysis of six months of the 457 Visa program by the CFMEU found that 55 per cent of 457 Visa approvals were for employees aged 30 and under.

"..with youth unemployment at crisis point, it cannot possibly justify caving in to big business by expanding access to overseas labour at the expense of young local jobseekers," Mr O'Connor said.

Currently the criteria for sourcing a worker under a 457 Visa requires the employer to prove they were unable to fill the position locally.

But the federal member believes the fact that employers are having to source these employees to keep their businesses alive is actually the symptom rather than the cause.

He said employers shouldn't have to import workers under 457 Visas, but they are currently left with no choice.

"At the moment if a business cannot fill a position, they need to keep operating, that's what we fall back on," he said.