Updated 31 May 2018
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Statistics and Mapping Section
This guide provides a brief overview of youth unemployment,
an introduction to the key concepts and terminology used, and lists relevant
data sources. This is one in a series of statistical quick guides related to labour
statistics, designed to provide a basic understanding of the Australian labour
market data. Other guides include labour
which are available from the Parliamentary
In the labour force framework, unemployed people form part
of the currently active population, who, along with the employed, constitute
the labour force. Young unemployed people are a sub-set of the unemployed (see
Labour force framework
Source: ABS, Labour Statistics: Concepts, sources
and methods, Feb 2018, cat. no. 6102.0.55.001
Who are unemployed people?
Labour Organization (ILO) describes unemployed people as those who during a
specific recent period were: not working; available to work; and undertaking
activities to seek work. The concept of ‘without work’ is used to distinguish
unemployed people from the employed. A person must not have undertaken any work
at all (not even for one hour) during the reference period.
How is youth unemployment measured?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducts a monthly
Force Survey. This household survey is designed to produce key
estimates of unemployment (and employment) from a sample of approximately 50,000
Unemployed persons are defined as all persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the reference week and:
- had actively looked for work and were available to work (in the reference week), or
- were waiting to start a new job.
Young unemployed people are those classified as unemployed according to the above definition and aged 15 to 24 years.
More information on the measurement of unemployment is
available from the ABS.
Young unemployed people are a sub-set of the unemployed. Age
groupings are applied to people classified as unemployed to form the population
of interest. Youth unemployment generally refers to people aged 15 to 24 years,
but may apply to any age cohort within this span. Depending on the schooling
structure and retention of young people in education, the age group of interest
may vary. For example, where young people usually look for full-time work after
completing high school, the unemployment rate of those aged 15 to 19 years is
likely to be useful. However, where young people generally stay on at school,
completing further studies and then seek full-time work, the unemployment rate
of those aged 20 to 24 years may be more useful. For comparisons of youth
unemployment between countries, the ILO
generally uses unemployed people aged 15 to 24 years.
Young people may undertake a complex range of work and study
arrangements, making them a difficult segment of the labour market to analyse. Young
people studying part-time may combine their studies with some work (generally
part-time), and others may be studying full-time and not working at all (nor
actively looking for work). However, the seeking of full-time work by a young
person typically indicates that they want to start a career, to gain on-the-job
training and to achieve some form of independence
What are the key measures?
The number of young unemployed people (head count)
Each month the ABS estimates the number of unemployed
people, releasing trend, seasonally adjusted and original data. The level of
youth unemployment is subject to fluctuations throughout the year, particularly
around peak times of education commencement or conclusion. Trend and seasonally
adjusted estimates aim to account for these types of variations. If original
estimates are to be used, care should be taken when analysing any
month-to-month, or period-to-period changes; the use of an annual average is
recommended. Graph 1 shows changes in the number of young unemployed people
from the start of the data series until the most recent period.
1. Young unemployed people (15 to 24 years)—trend
Source: ABS, Labour force, Mar 2018, cat. no. 6202.0
Youth unemployment rate
The rate is the number of young unemployed people expressed
as a proportion of the labour force (in the same age group). This measure is
applied in the same way as the general unemployment rate. The key data sources
are the same as for the number of young unemployed (see previous page). Graph 2
(on the next page) provides the youth unemployment rate from the start of the
data series until the most recent period.
The unemployment rate is subject to some criticism, being
thought of as too simplistic to reflect the complex work/study situations that
often apply to young people. The ILO
explains that youth unemployment rates are frequently misinterpreted, as
they do not provide a measure of young unemployed people as a share of the
youth population, but as a share of the youth labour force. Altshuler,
and others have commented on the adequacy of the measure, stating the rate does
not account for the high proportion of people currently in education or
training. It is therefore suggested that the youth unemployment ratio be used
as an alternate or additional measure (see the following segment).
2. Youth unemployment rate (15 to 24 years)—trend
Source: ABS, Labour force, Mar 2018, cat. no. 6202.0
Youth unemployment ratio
The ratio is the number of young unemployed people expressed
as a proportion of the civilian population (in the same age group). The ratio
differs from the rate as it accounts for the whole population of young people
not solely those in the labour force (i.e. employed or unemployed). The ratio
helps to provide an indication of young peoples’ unemployment experiences, which
are often complicated by transitions into and out of education and work. Graph
3 (on the next page) provides the youth unemployment ratio for people aged 15
to 19 years and 20 to 24 years from the start of the data series until the most
recent period. Labour
Force, detailed – electronic delivery provides the underlying data for
the calculation of the ratio, see Table 13.
3. Youth unemployment ratio by age—annual average
Source: ABS, Labour force, detailed – electronic delivery, Mar 2018, cat. no.
What are the key ABS data sources?
For both the number and rate of unemployed, Labour
force provides monthly updates, see: Tables 13, 15, 16 and 17. Labour
Force, detailed – electronic delivery provides data specifically on
young people (aged 15 to 24 years), as well as by selected age groups (e.g. 15
to 19 years, 20 to 24 years). For unemployment data see: Tables 1, 3, 14d and
20a and Data cubes LM1, LM3, LM3a, LM5, LM9, UM3, RM1, FM2 and NM1. There are
also Data cubes providing estimates of youth employment.
For more specialised data, Labour
force, detailed, quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003) provides: volume
measures of underutilisation (Table 23b); selected age groups by educational
attendance (Table 25b); and retrenchment by age (Table 29b).
What other measures are available?
Specific criteria can be applied to the youth population to
account for their different job seeking, work and study scenarios. Extended
measures of youth unemployment can be created using additional variables. Some
of these are briefly summarised below.
Youth full-time unemployment rate
This measure is the number of young unemployed people
looking for full-time work as a proportion of the youth full-time labour force
(in the same age group). The labour force therefore excludes young people who
are looking for part-time work and those who are employed part-time. Data is
available from Table 13, Labour force.
Youth unemployment/Fully active ratio
A useful variable for assessing estimates of youth
unemployment is ‘educational attendance’. This variable indicates a person’s
involvement in study or training, and can be combined with their labour force
status to analyse a variety of study/work scenarios. Educational attendance can
be used to identify young people who are studying, so that an adjustment can be
made to both the unemployed and labour force populations. A ratio is then created
that expresses the number of unemployed youth who are not studying full-time as
a proportion of the youth labour force plus those who are studying full-time. Original
data is available each month from Tables 15 (by sex) and 16 (by
state/territory) of the Labour force.
More detailed information, including NEET rates (measures of young
people Not in Education, Employment or Training),
is available from the publication, Education and Work
(cat. no. 6227.0)
Share of unemployed youth in total
This measure expresses the number of young unemployed as a
proportion of all unemployed people. It can be used to provide an indication of
the degree to which unemployment is a youth-specific problem, rather than a
general problem. It is generally used as part of a suite of indicators, rather
than as a stand-alone measure. Graph 4 (on the next page) provides young
unemployed people as a proportion of total unemployed from the start of the
data series until the most recent period. See Table 1 in Labour Force,
detailed – electronic delivery for data by five-year age groups.
4. Youth (15 to 24 years) share of total unemployment—annual
Source: ABS, Labour force, Mar 2018, cat. no. 6202.0
Is electorate level data available?
The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing
provides data for small statistical areas, including Commonwealth Electoral
Divisions (2016 boundaries). The most recent Census was held in August 2016. The
Community Profile series provides selected information, including:
labour force status (by age and sex), employment rates, full-time and
part-time workers, industry of employment and occupation.
Where can I find regional data?
Regional estimates of unemployment by age are released
by the ABS in Labour
force, detailed – electronic delivery, see Data cube RM1. This release
provides data for the smallest geographic areas available (excluding the
Census). Data is from the original (unadjusted) series and due to the small
sample sizes the sampling errors with some estimates may be quite high. The use
of an annual average is recommended.
Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) or ABS ‘Labour market
are designed for the dissemination of labour force estimates and to reflect
labour markets within each state and territory. They cover 87 spatial areas
across Australia. For Library clients, a correspondence between Commonwealth
Electoral Divisions and selected geographies (including SA4s) is available via
the Library portal,
see ‘Your electorate’ > ‘Population’.
The Department of Jobs and Small Business publishes ABS
regional labour force data (SA4) on their Labour Market Information Portal.
The portal provides a snapshot of the monthly data, including youth
unemployment (15 to 24 years). The data can be accessed through drop-down menus
on the home page.
What about jobseekers receiving
market and related payments monthly profile publication provides
data on Newstart (and some other benefit) recipients based on Department of
Social Services administrative data, see Tables 1 and 6. Note that the figures vary
to those released by the ABS due to differing methodologies in calculating
‘unemployed’ persons. See the ‘Appendix’ for more information.
What other sources provide
information on the young unemployed?
The ABS releases publications from a range of supplementary
labour, household and social surveys. A summary of the most relevant sources
work, cat. no. 6227.0
This survey provides information on people’s involvement in
education and work, their current studies, transitions into work and
demographic characteristics (for people aged 15 to 74 years). It also provides
a measure of people’s level of engagement in employment or study.
This survey provides information on people looking for work,
or potentially able to look for work. It includes details of difficulties
finding work, types of activities taken to find work and reasons people may
have not been actively looking for work (e.g. study). It also publishes
measures of extended labour force underutilisation.
See also: Barriers and
incentives to labour force participation (cat. no. 6239.0); Characteristics of employment
(cat. no. 6333.0); and Household
income and wealth (cat. no. 6523.0).
Where can I find international
employment trends for youth 2017: Paths to a better working future, 20
jobs for youth - the global initiative for action. This webpage
provides background on this United Nations (UN) initiative, it also provides a
brochure and links to useful resources.
OECD, Work on
youth. This webpage provides summary indicators (including NEET rates)
and links to relevant publications, for young people.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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