YOUTH EMPLOYMENT LEVELS AT LOWEST POINT IN 20 YEARS IN AUSTRALIA

The proportion of young Australians with a job has plunged to its lowest level in two decades, with evidence that fewer than 60 per cent are working sparking calls from employers for the government to respond to an emerging crisis with steps to cut penalty rates and youth wages. New figures released reveal the jobless rate among people aged 15-24 has risen to 13.1 per cent — almost three times the 4.4 per cent rate for people aged 25 and over — with participation in the workforce continuing to fall. Only 57.4 per cent of young people now have work, down from a peak of 65.6 per cent ahead of the global financial crisis and the lowest level since September 1994 as the economy was emerging from the last recession.

The rise in youth unemployment comes as the government prepares to push budget measures through parliament that sharply curtail access to unemployment benefits for those aged under 30. Employment Minister Eric Abetz defended the budget strategy, saying it was designed to force the young to either get a job or undertake study. “Clearly youth unemployment is a significant issue and that is why our ‘earn or learn’ policy is so vitally important to ensure young Australians don’t disengage from the employment market,” he said. Senator Abetz cited budget measures to provide incentives for long-term unemployed to move residence in search of work and to keep jobs they find.

He echoed the concerns of employer groups that excessive pay was preventing companies from hiring young people. “One cannot help but wonder what increases in youth wages is doing to their employment prospects,” he said. While the unemployment rate nationally has come down from a peak of 6 per cent in February to 5.8 per cent in May, this has ­concealed the diverging trends between entry-level and experienced workers. Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake said that since the onset of the financial crisis, the number of people aged 15-24 with a job has fallen by 6.6 percentage points, while employment among those aged 25 and over has risen by 10.3 percentage points.

Mr Eslake said business had resisted mass sackings during the GFC but overall employment growth had been weak ever since. This meant that entry-level employees bore the brunt. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry described the deterioration of the ­labour market for young people as an “emergency”. Chief executive Kate Carnell said a lost generation was being created as participation rates fell. She said there was a group of young people that had simply disappeared. They were neither earning nor learning. She said they may be living at home and not looking for work, couch surfing or working in the cash economy. “This shouldn’t be happening. It doesn’t spell good things for their future,’’ Ms Carnell said.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that among 15 to 19-year-olds, the number who are neither in work nor undertaking any education now stands at 111,400. University of Newcastle labour market economist Bill Mitchell said over the past 12 months teenagers had lost 37,900 jobs, while the rest of the labour force had gained 136,700 jobs. Since the financial crisis, the number of jobs for teenagers had dropped by 117,300 positions. Ms Carnell called for the government and the Fair Work Commission to tackle the crisis in the youth labour market as a matter of priority.

One of the solutions would be to make it easier to employ young people by tackling penalty rates, the minimum wage and addressing a significant drop-off in ­apprenticeships, she said. Labor’s employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said that while there was undoubtedly an “intersection” of pay levels and rates of employment this had not changed in recent years and did not explain the deterioration in job prospects among the young. “It is more complicated than the rates of pay. What is expected of young people entering the ­labour market today, in terms of the skills employers are wanting, is very different to 20 years ago while the labour market itself is changing,” he said.

“Fewer major public and private corporations are maintaining a high number of apprenticeships and traineeships while training providers haven’t shifted quickly enough to res­pond to the growing sectors of the economy.” Mr O’Connor criticised the budget cutbacks to apprenticeship funding while saying the measures to deny jobless benefits to people under 30 for periods of six months were too harsh. Mr Eslake said many economists had mistakenly ascribed the fall in the overall participation rate — the number of people who have a job or are looking for one — from a peak of 65.8 per cent to 64.6 per cent now to the ageing of the population.

He said while babyboomers were certainly retiring, this was largely offset by the increasing number of people remaining in the workforce in their 60s. Overwhelmingly, the decline was due to the falling participation of those aged 15-24, down from 75.3 per cent to 67.8 per cent since the GFC, he said. Professor Mitchell echoed Ms Carnell’s comments about a lost generation, saying many school-leavers who left school in 2008 were still without employment, with their time out of the workforce making them ever more ­unattractive to employers. He said that, among 15-24 year olds, about 38 per cent either did not have a job or were working fewer hours than they wanted. “This is up around the bad European numbers,” he said.

Analysis of the labourforce survey by UBS fixed-­income analyst Matthew Johnson revealed it was harder for a person who was jobless to get a job than at any time since the global downturn in 2001, with only 20 per cent of the unemployed finding work each month, down from a peak of 26 per cent. There had also been a sharp fall in the numbers who were out of the workforce finding a job, down from 5 per cent each month to 4.3 per cent. The unemployment rate has now held steady at 5.8 per cent for three months. Among the states, jobless rates range from 5 per cent in Western Australia to 7.5 per cent in Tasmania.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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AUSSIE JIHADIST IMPLICATED IN IRAQI EXECUTIONS

Australian Muslim jihadists fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are alleged to have been involved in carrying out massacres of captured Iraqi prisoners and participating in some of the most gruesome war crimes committed during the Iraq insurgency. Convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf is among a handful of Australian Muslim jihadists believed to have carried out bloody, battlefield executions, in what amounts to a serious escalation of Australian involvement in the Iraq-Syria conflict. Several Australian Islamists fighting with ISIS have become participants in some of the worst excesses of the conflict.

Highly graphic images of the executions have emerged on social media showing Sharrouf holding a pistol and leaning over the corpse of an Iraqi man who has been executed. The victim — dressed in civilian, not military, clothing — has died from a massive head wound. The dead bodies of other men, also clad in civilian clothing, lie around the former Sydney man. At least one of the victims had his hands tied with a keffiyeh headdress popular with Iraqis. The men were clothed in long robes and sandals. The shocking developments, along with the highly graphic images that document them, have prompted rare interventions from both the head of ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

ASIO director-general David Irvine said the Australian community “abhors’’ acts of terrorism. “It is clear that horrific acts of violence and terrorism have taken place in Syria and now in Iraq,’’ Mr Irvine said “I am confident that Australians of all political and religious persuasions will continue to reject such violence from whatever quarter it comes.’’ AFP commissioner Tony Negus said the images found on the internet were “very disturbing’’, Mr Negus said. “It is important for any Muslim people considering taking part in these conflicts or participating in any violence here in Australia to know that law enforcement will not tolerate violence or extremism and will take all necessary steps to prevent harm in our communities.’’

Both men warned of the dire consequences faced by Australians who participated in the Iraq-Syria conflict. “We will use all powers and resources at our disposal to prevent violence or extremism both here in Australia and overseas,’’ Mr Negus said. The warning was echoed by Mr Irvine, who said Australia had international, as well as domestic, obligations to prevent Muslim Australians from travelling abroad to fight. Sharrouf and fellow Australian radical Muslim Mohamed Elomar, also fighting with ISIS, are understood to have executed several captured Iraqis. It is understood the executions occurred in northern Iraq and there was speculation the victims might have been captured Iraqi government workers.

The image of Sharrouf was posted on Facebook by an Australian using the name Abu Hafs, a nom de guerre used by Elomar. It is believed Elomar also participated in the killings. Sharrouf, who served three years and 11 months over his role in the 2005 Pendennis terror plot, left Australia illegally last year, flying out of Sydney Airport on his brother’s passport. Elomar’s brother, former boxing champion Ahmed Elomar was recently  jailed for assaulting a policeman during the 2012 Hyde Park riot. Their uncle, also named Mohamed Elomar, was one of the ringleaders of the 2005 Pendennis terror conspiracy. Elomar Sr was also jailed over the plot.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES NEW FOREIGN AID POLICY

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has introduced a revolutionary new aid policy that will radically transform the aims and methods of Australia’s $5 billion annual program. The government will establish a Development Innovation Hub within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that will draw on experts and creative thinkers from the private sector to work on the most intractable problems in aid and development. The government will fund this hub with $140 million over four years. Ms Bishop is using the Stanford Business School’s course on entrepreneurship as her operational model. In this course, students are given problems to solve and the most effective solutions are then scaled up commercially.

Ms Bishop is determined to inject new thinking into the aid process and to involve the private sector as never before. As part of this, Australia will be a founding participant in the Global Development Innovation Ventures program, which is also supported by the US and Britain. In a move likely to upset aid traditionalists, the Abbott government will strongly emphasise aid for infrastructure development. This flows from the government’s conviction that aid itself is not an answer to poverty, and that economic development is the only long-term solution to poverty. Traditional aid groups have frowned on aid support for innovation as the money goes mostly to private sector companies.

The government recently cut the aid program by $650 million and stabilised the aid budget at $5bn a year for two years. After that It will rise in line with the Consumer Price Index. This figure makes Australia one of the top 10 aid donors within the OECD. The aid budget will still carry an emphasis on health and disease prevention, and the empowerment of women and girls. However the government will move away from the direct provision of services and try to work to empower recipient governments to deliver their own services. This is designed to avoid long-term aid dependency. The aid budget will devote $30m a year to fund medical research which can be done in Australia, provided it is directly concerned with an aid task.

The government envisages supporting research in the Asian region, with the research directly related to local conditions. In time the University of Papua New Guinea could receive funds under this program. The government hopes that some Pacific medical institutions could enhance their reputation to the extent that they will attract overseas doctors and researchers. A key element of the new aid paradigm is accountability. The government will set out performance benchmarks for aid programs. If an aid program is consistently failing to meet the benchmark then the government will acknowledge failure and move on, cancelling the project concerned and devoting that aid money to a different project.

The government believes too many aid projects are funded in perpetuity despite continually failing to achieve their targets. The Abbott government is determined to create a different culture around the Australian aid program. It will reduce and consolidate the number of programs to make evaluation and delivery smoother and to enable it to keep better track of what money is being spent and how effective this is. More than 90% of the aid budget will in future be directed toward the Indo-Pacific region. This reflects the government’s view it should specialise more, with Europe taking more responsibility for Africa and the Middle East and Australia making its contribution in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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