For younger Australians (those aged 15-24 years) participation in the labour force tends to increase with age, reflecting their transition from education and training (which is often combined with part-time work) into full-time employment. Levels of labour force participation and unemployment are frequently used as indicators of the wellbeing of young people. Indeed, the relatively high level of youth unemployment is often cited as a cause for concern (16.5% for 15-19 year olds in 2009, and 8.2% for 20-24 year olds).
However, young people's engagement in education and training is generally viewed as a more meaningful indicator of wellbeing than unemployment or labour force participation alone (FYA 2009). Research suggests that young people who are not fully engaged in education or work (or a combination of both) are at greater long term risk of unemployment, cycles of low pay and employment insecurity (Pech 2009). Furthermore, participation in education and training and engaging in work are considered important aspects in developing individual capability and in building a socially inclusive society (DEEWR 2009). Young people are considered to be fully engaged if they are participating in full-time work, full-time education or a combination of part-time work and part-time study.
The majority of young Australians are fully engaged. In both 1999 and 2009, the proportion who were fully engaged was 81%. In May 2009, 85% of 15-19 year olds were fully engaged, compared with 78% of 20-24 year olds.
The most notable change over the decade for 20-24 year olds has been an increase in the proportion who were studying full time, from 21% in 1999 to 29% in 2009. This coincides with a decline in the proportion working full-time (from 52% to 47%) and is consistent with increases in both the completion of secondary school and the undertaking of further post-school education.
In May 2009, some 561,000 young people were not fully engaged. This 19% was made up of
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