BALLARAT is facing a massive increase in youth unemployment as the federal government cracks down on benefits to young people without a job.
The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a jump in the number of jobless people aged 15 to 24 in the past year, reaching a five-year high, with more than one in four out of work.
The ABS figures show the youth unemployment rate for April this year had soared to 26 per cent, more than double the same time last year and consecutive April estimates back to 2009.
According to the data, Ballarat’s youth unemployment rate at April this year was slightly higher than Bendigo’s, at almost 24 per cent, and dramatically higher than that of Geelong and Melbourne.
The figures come against a background of the proposed federal budget which, if passed, will raise the age for Newstart – commonly known as the dole – from 22 to 25 years old.
Under the proposed budget, youths finding themselves both under 30 years old and unemployed will have to wait six months for the payment to begin.
Once started, recipients will have six months to find work before the payment stops for a further six months.
This will continue until they either turn 30 or manage to find sustained employment.
Tamika Kalisperis, 19, from Soldiers Hill, has struggled to find a job since moving to Ballarat from Bendigo two years ago.
“Everywhere that’s hiring won’t go for anybody who’s 18 or my age. They want people over 21. Everyone’s screwed it up, basically,” Ms Kalisperis told The Courier outside Centrelink this week.
Ms Kalisperis said she moved to Ballarat to be with family and help care for a sick nephew.
In Bendigo, she worked part-time as a waitress.
She said she had gained five job interviews, but had no luck and saw no hope for young people in the region wanting to work.
“Anyone who wants to get a job has to leave Ballarat. That’s the only option, because there’s nothing here for us. They just won’t hire anybody,” she said.
General manager of local job search agency Centacare Trish Nolan attributes the dire situation to a number of factors, including expectations that young people will misbehave and just “a lack of entry level jobs”.
“The income support arrangements for people, proposed in the budget, assumes that there are ongoing full-time jobs available for young people in the area,” Ms Nolan said.
“That’s not necessarily the case in regional areas.”