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Youth Unemployment and Crime

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The causes and consequences of youth unemployment in Australia has been of particular concern within both government and private sectors for many years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 10.9% of the total 15-24 age population was unemployed in September, 1995. This figure climbed to 15.3% in September, 2003. This evidence gives cause to the growing concern surrounding the increase in youth unemployment. For sizeable numbers of youth, its not going to get any easier to find work as they move into their twenties or complete education. Opinions such as those found in the Smith Family Youth Unemployment Report (2003) hypothesise that juvenile crime is directly connected to the high rates of youth unemployment in Australia. In this essay, I would firstly like to ask exactly what is known about both the rates of juvenile crime and youth unemployment in Australia, and is there a direct link between the two? The suggested connection between a soaring crime rate and youth unemployment influences the way in which our society is governed and developed, making it imperative that we endeavor to try and understand and/or eliminate some of these suggestions. I will begin my essay by defining what I mean by youth unemployment and juvenile crime, and explore the possible challenges upon measuring both of these things. Comparing statistics gathered from both the ABS and other government recognized reports on unemployment, and information from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), I will attempt to weigh up the claim that the crime rate has risen in unison with the unemployment rate. I will also assess claims made by Weatherburn (2001) that youth unemployment causes crime, sifting through the truths and fallacies.

Opinions such as those found in the Smith Family Youth Unemployment Report (2003) which hypothesize that juvenile crime is directly connected to the high rates of youth unemployment in Australia cannot be neither accepted nor critiqued until there is a clear understanding of what the terms "Youth Unemployment" and "Juvenile Crime" mean in the context of this essay. In this essay youth unemployment is generally taken to include the entire 15-24 age cohort - not just 15-19 year old teenagers - who are no longer at school or university and who are without a job. I have chosen to include 20-24 year olds under the banner of "Youth", as it gives a fairer picture of the performance of all young people in the labor market and takes into account the pattern of employment both during and after leaving school or university. The word juvenile is used to describe the actions of a person who is "not fully grown or developed" (, and is marked by immaturity and childishness. Crime is generally taken to include all acts which are deemed against the law of the state, and are therefore illegal. The term "Juvenile Crime" is usually taken to encompass juvenile delinquency. Explaining crime and delinquency is a complex task. A multitude of factors exist that contribute to the understanding of what leads someone to engage in delinquent behavior. Just as the casual factors of juvenile delinquency and crime are diverse and numerous, so are their definitions. Hartley (1985) and other sociologists state, "Sociologists define deviance as any behavior that members of a social group define as violating their norms. This concept applies both to criminal acts of deviance and non-criminal acts that members of a group view as unethical, immoral, peculiar, sick, or otherwise outside the bounds of respectability."

In order to look discuss whether or not youth unemployment causes or has any correlation to the high crime rate in Australia, it is important to have a clear understanding of the patterns of youth unemployment. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in September 1995 10.9% of the total 15-24 age population was unemployed (or 15.1% of the 15-24 year old labour force). Unemployment as a proportion of the population among 20-24 year olds was 9.7% (or 11.6% of the 20-24 year old labour force) and among teenagers was 12.2% (or 20.7% of the teenage labour force). For considerable numbers of young people it is not getting any easier to find work as they move into their twenties or complete education. According to a study undertaken in 1995 by Wooden (1999) young people who just worked part-time represented 10% of the total 20-24 age group compared to 5.7% of teenagers. Altogether 215,000 young people were working part-time. Two-thirds of those working part-time wanted to work longer hours but couldnâ„-t find the work. So the total number unemployed or just working part-time equals 507,000 young people or 18.8% of the total 15-24 population or 26.2% of the 15-24 age labour force. It is this group as a whole that is at risk of being relegated to the margins of the labour force. A further 163,000 young people had already dropped out of the labour force, a significant number of them discouraged by their attempt to find work. It is also worth looking at where high rates of youth unemployment are concentrated. It is highest in regional centres and is disproportionately located in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and outlying states such as South Australia. For example, in July 1997 52% of the young unemployed in New South Wales were located in just four regions of outer Western Sydney, the Hunter Valley, the Illawarra and the north coast areas around the Richmond and Tweed rivers (Wooden: 1999). In South Australia youth unemployment in Adelaideâ„-s northern an southern suburbs accounted for 56% of the state's total youth unemployment while in Tasmania nearly half of all the unemployed were concentrated in Hobart.

According to World Bank's "The Global Crisis of Youth Unemployment", male and females aged between 15 and 24 years account for 41 per cent of the world's unemployed, an estimated 74 million people. Compared to other nations, Australia's youth unemployment rates are high. By 1993 Australia had the fifth highest youth unemployment rate among thirteen OECD countries,(ABS) and ten years later Australia still fares poorly. As the OECD (Employment Outlook 2003, p. 26) stated, 'teenage unemployment and early school leaving rates in Australia exceed the area-wide average. Moreover, the employment disadvantage of poorly qualified school leavers, compared to their better educated counterparts, is somewhat above the OECD average'. According to ABS trend statistics, in September of 2003 21.6 per cent of 15-19 year olds in Australia were unemployed. Female teenagers (23.3 per cent) had a higher unemployment rate than their male counterparts (20.6 per cent). This is in stark contrast to the 5.9 per cent of unemployed adults. Thus in September teenagers were over two and a half times more likely



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