There’s no future without young people: 2019-20 Federal Budget
While projecting a significant surplus for 2019-20 and announcing tax reductions, the Australian Government’s budget has failed to substantially address the critical issues facing young people.
Youth unemployment remains high, under-employment amongst young people is common and too many young people have slipped through the cracks of our education or training systems. Reliance on inadequate income support payments is preventing young people from seeking work, gaining skills and breaking out of poverty.
Will the government be addressing these issues moving forward? Using funds from the surplus and tax cuts could deliver substantial improvements in our vocational education and training system, increased Newstart and Youth Allowance and address the issues of unemployment and underemployment for young people. But the budget won’t be creating quite that level of impact. Instead, there are only a few small initiatives that will be of benefit to young people.
Skills and training
A $525.3 million over five years for a skills package aimed at reviving the vocational education and training sector to address Australia’s skills shortages. The main features of the skills package are:
- An increase in the number of apprentices by 80,000 in industries with skills shortages. The Government will double the incentive payments to employers to $8000 and introduce a new $2000 payment to apprentices split into two payments (one after 12 months and one at completion) aimed at improving completion rates.
- There will also be a trial of ten training hubs supporting school-based vocational education in regions with high youth unemployment with an aim to create better links between schools and local industry.
- The Government will establish a National Skills Commission to drive reforms of the vocational education and training sector. A new National Careers Institute will be created to improve career advice and provide information for jobseekers.
- Two new Skills Organisations will be trialled for the digital technologies and human services workforce to trial new, industry-led methods of qualification development and assessment.
Despite widespread recognition that Youth Allowance and Newstart payments are below the poverty line and insufficient to meet living costs, the Government has not agreed to any real increases in these payments.
After initially excluding Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients from the one-off Energy Assistance Payment, the Government has changed its mind. Newstart recipients will receive this small payment, but this will be unlikely to impact the financial strength of Newstart recipients in a significant way.
Youth Mental Health
The Government will provide additional funding to improve access to youth mental health services across the national headspace network. There will be an extension to the Early Psychosis Youth Services program for an additional two years.
A small sum of $5.2 million over four years has been allocated to implement Indigenous suicide prevention initiatives led by local youth Indigenous leaders to ensure that support is culturally appropriate.
There’s no future without young people.
On the face of it, the Government hasn’t shown much of a deep commitment to addressing serious issues facing young people across Australia: these are many and complex. Unsurprisingly, the perspectives of young people are not coming through in the priorities and focus of this budget, like many before it.
Do we need to change the way young people are represented in the budget? Do they need to be consulted more deeply about their needs and concerns? What will it take to get young people to feature more centrally in future budgets?
The National Youth Commission is committed to unearthing and collecting the knowledge, ideas and expertise of young people, as well as the broader Australian community, to help shape and drive future policy makers on how to address youth unemployment, youth underemployment, the insecure nature of work, and transitions to adulthood in a new economy. It is critical for the Government to start thinking about this future so that young people and future generations are set up to succeed individually and sustain Australia’s prosperity.
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