Triple J did a profile on youth unemployment in Wollongong that was posted on the ABC’s website on October 29.
Five young people were interviewed about the difficulties in finding work, and the reasons for the high youth unemployment rate.
These are the same problems faced by young people all over Australia: a reduction in the number of apprenticeships available, the effects of the financial crisis, the lack of experience young people have and how no-one is willing to give them a chance.
The response to the piece was ridicule, with many comments focusing on the tattoos, piercings, and even the children of those interviewed as the reason that they didn’t have a job.
Others said they should be willing to move to Western Australia and work in the mines, or that it was their lack of motivation and willingness to work that was stopping them.
The prevailing wisdom is that if you really want a job, you can find one. So if you can’t find a job, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
Instead of looking at the objective reasons why for a lack of jobs for young people, the attitude of many is to blame the young people themselves.
This view is promoted not only by politicians and the media, but by Centrelink and the privatised Job Services Australia agencies, leading many unemployed people to blame themselves.
The life of someone who is unemployed is hardly the relaxed carefree lifestyle that critics make out.
The Newstart Allowance is 30% below the poverty line, which means if you’re unemployed you can’t afford to pay bills, let alone socialise with friends, buy new clothes or things you enjoy like books or music.
All of this leads to isolation and alienation, a situation no one would choose.
The idea is that if welfare is low, it will be extra motivation for people to find a job. But, in reality, it doesn’t work like that.
Depression is a serious illness, and being unemployed doubles a person’s chances of developing it. Being unemployed also raises a person’s chances of becoming homeless or developing drug addictions, all of which makes it less likely that they will be in a position to find a job.
The damage done to a person by not having a job means having a job should be a human right.
Plenty of jobs could be created by the government: working in renewable energy industries; planting trees to reforest land to help the climate and our sick river systems; or massively expanding public transport.
In Venezuela, an army of young people were sent by the government to go house-to-house, handing out energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs and advising residents about how to conserve energy.
These are all things young people in Australia could do but, under capitalism, job creation is mostly left up to the market. The government lets private business determine what jobs are created or destroyed and in which area. Opportunities are wasted when there is no profit to be made from things that would benefit society hugely — from aged care to stopping climate change.
Employers aren’t interested in getting rid of unemployment completely because having a certain percentage of the population unemployed means they can threaten to replace workers at short notice and keep wages low. Put into perspective, a tattoo or nose ring isn’t really what’s stopping an individual finding work, the real reason is the capitalist system.
People shouldn’t have to move 3000km away from their homes and families to find work.
A socialist system would expand the public sector, and provide jobs to those that want them that are useful to society and fulfilling for individuals.