The number of unemployed young people on the Southern Highlands and South Coast has reached 22.5%, the highest rate recorded over the past five years.
The results were published yesterday by the NSW Parliamentary Library in their February Labor Force Trends report incorporating data from the ABS Labour Force Survey. The staggering 22.5% rate of youth unemployed in the Southern Highlands and South Coast is nearly double the NSW average of 11.8%.
Greens MLC and spokesperson for the South Coast Justin Field said the cluster of high youth unemployment in the region created the risk of a ‘lost generation’ locked out of employment and opportunity.
“The Labor Force figures show a growing youth unemployment crisis in the Southern Highlands and South Coast,” Mr Field said.
“Young people are struggling to get a foot in the door and find work as the local region becomes entrenched as an unemployment hotspot for people aged 15 to 24. This represents close to one in four young people who are not gaining the experiences or training needed to develop the skills they need for secure future employment,” he said.
Wingecarribee Shire councillor Gordon Markwart said while employment opportunities have grown modestly elsewhere across NSW, the situation worsens here in the Southern Highlands.
“Too many young people in our region are faced with the reality of unemployment and underemployment,” Cr Markwart.
“It’s especially galling that simultaneously working conditions like penalty rates are being whittled away from those who need them the most. Often the most common solution to travel long distances daily or leave the area completely to become employed.
“The health, rural and retail industries form a large component of traditional employment in the Southern Highlands and it is pleasing to see such wonderful growth in the tourist sector. Yet we’re experiencing a push for mining expansion that puts at the risk this very growth in tourism and high value sustainable agricultural opportunities,” he said.
Both Mr Field and Cr Markwart are calling for all levels and sides of politics need to work together on an urgent and comprehensive employment strategy for the South Coast, especially for young people.