The South West and Peel ranked tenth highest in Australia for youth unemployment with 21.6 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 years unable to find a job.
The figures were released in the State of the Regions 2018-19 report published by the National Economics/Australian Local Government Association.
The report stated job prospects for students graduating from universities had improved with 72 per cent of people with a bachelor degree finding a job in 2017.
Employment opportunities for young people without qualifications were far more uncertain with disengaged youth and inequality seen as major concerns.
According to the report, the unemployment rate in the South West and Peel regions had increased 6 per cent since 2003 making the area one of the most disadvantaged youth employment regions in the country.
It was estimated that the national average for youth unemployment was 16.1 per cent, rising from 13.1 per cent in 2017.
Premier Mark McGowan said he accepted youth unemployment was still high, but there were some positive signs.
Mr McGowan said initiatives the government had undertaken to create more jobs for young people included investing $520 million in job-creating infrastructure across the South West and Peel including the Bunbury Outer Ring Road.
He said the government had frozen TAFE fees, opened a jobs and skills centre in Bunbury and Peel, developed an economic plan for Collie and Bunbury and spent $40 million to boost tourism.
“We also know that drug use among young people in the South West is particularly high,” he said.
“That is why we are implementing our meth action plan and investing more than $9 million to fast track 33 more alcohol and drug rehab beds in the South West.”
Mr McGowan also said the growing lithium industry provided enormous opportunity for jobs in the South West.
“Talison Lithium is spending $320 million on expanding its Greenbushes lithium mine – already the world’s biggest, and Albemarle is planning a lithium hydroxide processing plant in Kemerton.”
“The WA IndustryLink portal will help local businesses to secure work on government contracts. WA Industry Link will ensure more opportunities are created for WA businesses, meaning more jobs for local workers.
“As part of the advisory service, local content advisors were available to provide advisory services to businesses in regional areas.
“Their focus is on helping support regional businesses compete for State Government supply opportunities.”
South West MLC Steve Thomas said the labor government had perpetuated a fraud on the people of the South West and Peel region by abandoning their number one promise of job creation and job retention. (
“By abandoning the younger generation who seek employment within their local communities, and who wish to remain in their local communities, the true metro focus of this regionally disconnected government is once again exposed,” he said.
“Empty gestures and tokenism do not provide employment opportunities for young people in the South West, and the McGowan Government will be held to account for its hollow promises and blatant regional neglect."
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said while the Peel and the South West region have been combined as a region of significant unemployment, the youth unemployment rate for the Busselton local government area was considerably lower at 11.3 per cent.
“It is widely recognised there are significant parts of the community that are underrepresented in the workforce, including youth, women, people with a disability, Indigenous Australians, and older workers,” she said.
“Unfortunately the current landscape presents very significant challenges for young people and current policies are inadequate to meet their needs.”
Ms Mettam said people were attracted to the South West because of its natural beauty and premium quality food and drinks which could be exported.
She said by further developing new markets in Asia where growing population and emerging markets seeking high quality fresh produce could lead to increased demand for South West produce.
Attracting large scale events strategically positioned on an annual calendar to help maximise visitation, Ms Mettam said would encourage further tourism opportunities through increased destination marketing.
“Unfortunately, the McGowan government appears to be doing the opposite with events funding cut for annual events such as the Margaret River Gourmet Escape,” she said.
“Introducing a central city focused tourism strategy and making changes to the skilled priority occupation list have decimated international student numbers and the associated flow on tourism.
“Similarly, the McGowan government continues to compromise the completion of the Busselton Margaret River Airport project.
“This would open the transport corridor from the East Coast to the Margaret River region and provide economic benefits and jobs throughout the South West.”
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