Publication Details

Burrows, S. 2008, Illawarra Youth Unemployment Study: A Review of the Literature on the Causes of Youth Unemployment and Existing Policy and Program Responses, IRIS Research, Wollongong.



Youth unemployment has been a contentious issue for years, particularly in the Illawarra. The 15 to 24 year age group tends to suffer from a disproportionately high unemployment rate relative to the entire working age population. According to the June 2007 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, while the overall unemployment rate in the Wollongong Statistical Region was 4.8%, the youth unemployment rate was 15.0%. This was primarily fuelled by the 15 to 19 years age group, with an unemployment rate of 27.5%. While such figures are often quite volatile month to month, the critical point is this: the Illawarra consistently has a youth unemployment rate among the highest in the state.

Purpose of Report:

The first step to understanding why youth in the region have struggled to successfully engage in the labour market is to review and comprehend the relevant literature. Such a review can generate a holistic picture of the broader problems, and identify the many diverse factors that can lead to youth being classified as ‘at risk’ of longer term unemployment or marginalization. A review of the literature can also uncover existing policy and program initiatives employed to combat youth unemployment.

This report presents a review of selected Australian and international literature on youth unemployment issues and responses. It pinpoints the key issues and responses already acknowledged in published books and papers, available government department reports and research documents, and media commentaries.

The key outcome of this process is a reference paper that can simultaneously provide the Forum with a better understanding of the broader issues at play, whilst also informing the development of research that pinpoints the key local issues of concern. The information from this report will be used to guide our discussions with young job seekers, employers, government, and employment support services as we seek to understand the issues specific to young people in this region.