Young people’s business
The theme of today’s International Youth Day 2004, “finding decent and productive work for young people everywhere” recognises that finding meaningful work is probably the key to a young person successfully making the transition to independence.
There are a variety of hurdles that young people have to overcome such as finding stable accommodation, developing stable relationships. However, the evidence suggests if they have work the rest will fall into place.
Young people are the worst affected by poverty, making up more than 40 per cent of the world’s total unemployed. There are an estimated 66 million unemployed young people in the world today – an increase of nearly 10 million since 1965. Failure to secure work often forces young people around the world to turn to black market activities such as drugs and prostitution.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to helping young people find work. The best way to do this is by providing a strong and robust economy that provides opportunity. The lower youth unemployment rates of recent years stands testament to our success in this area. In fact, last week’s figures show that teenage unemployment is at the lowest level since 1990.
Whilst traditional methods of encouraging young people into the workforce still work well to keep pace with changes to our labour market, it is also important that we think outside the square and pursue more innovative approaches. A major theme in my work as Minister for Youth Affairs has been promoting youth entrepreneurship.
Young people often lead their chosen fields particularly in the area of technology. However, this is not reflected in young people’s involvement in small business. Of Australia’s 1.7 million incorporated or unincorporated enterprises only 50,100, or 3.3 per cent, are owned by people aged 15 to 24.
One need only look to participants of this year’s National Youth Roundtable to see youth entrepreneurship at its best. Matthew Eckford from Loganholme in Queensland established, owns and runs Rural Industry Connect, which is a market exchange network enabling rural and regional businesses to share information. 17-year-old James Austin from Cairns has already started his own Internet Development Business.
The Australian Government’s key initiative in the area of youth entrepreneurship is the Creating Common Wealth forum to be held on the Sunshine Coast 10-13 November this year. Involving delegations from almost every Commonwealth nation, the forum will focus on developing strategies to foster youth enterprise and determining the role it can play in resolving problems ranging from third world poverty to structural ageing.
It will be an outstanding opportunity for us to showcase some of the great domestic initiatives we have in place and to provide international leadership in an area where Australia is exceptionally strong.