4123.5 - Western Australia's Young People, 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/10/1998   
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This publication provides a comprehensive range of statistics on young people aged 12-25 years in Western Australia, using data from the 1996 Census of Population and Housing. The report is one of a series produced for each Australian State and Territory, jointly published by the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme (NYARS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). NYARS was established in 1985 as a cooperative funding arrangement between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to facilitate nationally based research into current social, political and economic factors affecting young people. NYARS is administered under the auspices of Youth Ministers through a working group of the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. Research undertaken assists in the formulation, implementation and assessment of policy by Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers for Youth.

A similar series, using 1991 Census data, was jointly published by the ABS and NYARS during 1992 and 1993.

The publication features summary tables of selected characteristics of young people at national and local government area levels. More detailed information is presented in five subject-based chapters: population, cultural diversity, living arrangements, education and working life. Within these broad subject headings, the publication also considers young people in the context of age, sex, and cultural diversity. Comparative data from the 1986 and 1991 Censuses are also included in some tables to provide a time dimension.




On Census night 1996, 3,636,900 12-25 year-olds were counted in Australia, representing over one-fifth (21%) of Australians of all ages.

In New South Wales, the most populous State, they numbered 1,201,800, representing one-third of Australia's young people. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of young people (24%).

Young males outnumbered young females in all States and Territories. Nationally, there were 48,800 more 12-25 year-old males than females.

Cultural diversity

Almost 3% (99,500) of Australia's young people were of Indigenous origin. In the Northern Territory, people who reported that they were of Indigenous origin comprised almost one-third (32%) of all 12-25 year-olds, but in Victoria, they made up fewer than 1% of young people.

Just over 14% of young people in Australia had been born overseas. For 5%, their country of birth had been one of the main English-speaking countries (Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States of America). The other 9% had been born in other countries.

A higher proportion of young people (15%) spoke languages other than English. More than 28% of the Northern Territory's 12-25 year-olds, and 20% of young people in Victoria, reported speaking a language other than English at home.

Living arrangements

Over 42% of young people in Australia were living with their parents as dependent children - either children aged 15 years or under, or dependent students aged 15-24 years. Another 20% lived with their parents as non-dependent children.

Almost one-quarter (24%) of young people had formed families or partnerships, or were living independently, alone or in group households.


Over 87% of Australian 12-17 year-olds, and almost 30% of 18-25 year-olds, were attending schools or other educational institutions. The highest levels of educational participation were reported in the Australian Capital Territory (92% of 12-17 year-olds, and 43% of 18-25 year-olds), and the lowest, in the Northern Territory - 75% and 14% respectively.

New South Wales had the highest proportion (32%) of any State or Territory of young people (18-25 years) with post-school qualifications. Nationally, the proportion was 29%.

Working life

Almost one-half (48%) of Australian 15-19 year-olds, and 78% of 20-25 year-olds, were in the labour force, that is, they were employed, or looking for work.

Among young people aged 15-19 years, the highest proportion (23%) were working part-time, compared with 14% in full-time work. For 20-25 year-olds, these positions were reversed - 47% were working full-time, and 19% part-time.


Unemployment rates among young people were at 19% for 15-19 year-olds, and 13% for 20-25 year-olds.

An alternative measure of unemployment levels is the percentage of unemployed in the whole age group. In 1996, this proportion was 9% for 15-19 year-olds, and 10% for 20-25 year-olds. This measure is particularly useful for young people, as it takes into account the number of people not participating in the labour force because of their education commitments.


The median weekly income for 15-25 year-olds in 1996 was $181. The highest median incomes were reported in the Northern Territory ($193), Queensland and Western Australia (both $192).




On census night (6 August 1996) 362,874 young people aged 12-25 years were counted, constituting 21% of all people in Western Australia. 1986 to 1996

Between 1986 and 1996, Western Australia's census count increased by 22% ( 312,979) to 1,713,023. This rate of increase was exceeded only by Queensland (29%) and the Northern Territory (24%).

The number of young people rose by 28,441 or 9% over the same period. However, the proportion of 12-25 year-olds among all Western Australians has declined from 24% in 1986 to 22% in 1991, and then to 21% in 1996. This trend can be expected to continue, since the proportion aged 0-11 years has also declined, from 19% in 1986 to 18% in 1996.

Sex and age

There were more males than females in the 12-25 years age group (185,980 compared with 176,894). Males slightly outnumbered females at all ages up to 25 years. In the older population (26 years and over) the number of females exceeded the number of males by 16,551. Among all people counted in Western Australia, the proportions of males and females were almost identical.

Geographic distribution

In 1996, there were 270,754 young people in the Perth Statistical Division, representing 75% of all 12-25 year-olds in Western Australia. The next highest number of young people were counted in the South West Statistical Division (30,038). The highest concentration of young people was in South Eastern Statistical Division (23%), followed by Perth (22%).


Young people reported being more mobile than older people. Almost 48% of 12-25 year-olds reported living at a different address than five years previously, compared with 39% of older people. A similar pattern was evident for residential movement within the previous twelve months, with 26% of young people and 14% of older people being at a different address.

Most of this movement had taken place within Western Australia. For both 12-25 year-olds and older people, about 89% of those who had moved in the previous five years had moved within the State.

Young females were more likely to have moved than young males. Almost 51% of young women reported living at a different address from five years ago, compared with 45% of young men. For the older population, approximately 39% of both males and females were living at a different address from five years ago.



Indigenous people

In the 1996 Census, 4% (14,199) of young people in Western Australia reported being of Indigenous origin. This proportion was above the national average of under 3%. In comparison, among those aged 26 years and over, Indigenous people comprised fewer than 2% of the total.


Western Australia had the highest proportion of young people born overseas (19%) of all the States and Territories, well above that for Australia as a whole (14%). Almost twice the proportion (37%) of Western Australians aged 26 years and over had been born overseas..

Countries of birth

Just under half (49%) of overseas-born people aged 12-25 years were born in the main English-speaking countries (Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States of America). Almost 59% of older people born overseas were from these countries.

Young people from the non-main English-speaking countries were more likely to have been born in Asia than a European country. The largest number were born in Malaysia (5,777) followed by Singapore (3,362) and Viet Nam (3,058). Among overseas-born aged 26 years and over, the proportions born in these countries were smaller.

Among young people who arrived in Australia between 1986 and 1990, the highest proportions were from the United Kingdom (29%) and New Zealand (14%). For more recent arrivals (between 1991 and 1996), 14% were from the United Kingdom, 13% from Malaysia and 12% from New Zealand.

Birthplace of parents

Almost 39% (109,421) of Australian-born young people had at least one parent who had been born overseas, compared with 30% of those aged 26 years and over. For 7% of 12-25 year-olds born in Australia, both parents had been born in a non-main English-speaking country.

Languages spoken at home

Just under 12% (42,352) of young Western Australians spoke a language other than English at home. Of these young people, almost 23% spoke one of the Chinese languages, another 13% spoke Italian, and 7% spoke Vietnamese. Among older people, the most common language other than English spoken at home was Italian (24%).

Proficiency in English

The majority (86%) of young Western Australians spoke English only. Of those young people who spoke another language at home, 8% (3,485) reported speaking English not well or not at all. Among older people (aged 26 years and over) this proportion was much higher (19%).



Marital status

The majority (73%) of young people aged 15-25 years in Western Australian were not married, 7% reported being in a registered marriage and 8% in a de facto marriage. Among older people, 60% reported being in a registered marriage, and 6% in a de facto marriage.

Living arrangements

Over 40% of 12-25 year-olds were living with their parents as dependent children. Another 22% of young males, and 15% of young females, were living as non-dependent children with their parents. Young women were more likely than young men to have moved from the family home, forming partnerships and their own families (19% compared with 9% of young males).

Among young people born in non-main English-speaking countries, 15% of young women and 6% of young men had formed partnerships and families of their own. Another 39% were living as dependent children with their parents. A high proportion (12%) were living in group households, perhaps reflecting the high numbers of overseas students in this group.

Among Indigenous young people, relatively high proportions (28% of females and 12% of males) had formed partnerships, or their own families. Almost one-third (32%) were dependent children living with their parents, and just over 16% were living as non-dependent children.

Type of dwelling

About 4% of 12-25 year-olds in Western Australia had spent census night in a non-private dwelling. Large numbers of these young people were in boarding schools or residential colleges (6,621), in staff quarters (2,976), or staying in hotels, motels or guest houses. Another 2,089 young people reported having no usual address.

Type of tenure

About 59% of young people occupied dwellings which were owned or being purchased, compared with over 70% of people aged 26 years and over. Almost one-third (32%) of young people were living in rented dwellings, compared with 20% of older people (aged 26 years and over). Over two-thirds (67%) of Indigenous young people, and 36% of those born overseas in non-main English-speaking countries, were in rented dwellings.



Attendance at educational institutions

More than half (52% or 188,410) of all 12-25 year-olds were attending an educational institution in 1996. This compares with 50% in 1991. The participation rate for females (53%) was slightly higher than for males (51%).

Between 1991 and 1996, there were slight increases in the proportions of young people attending schools (from 34% to 35%), technical or further educational institutions (from 6% to 7%), and in higher education institutions (9% to 10%).

As could be expected, given the compulsory nature of school attendance, education attendance was highest among the younger age groups. In the 12-14 years age group, almost 94% (74,120) reported attending school, with the majority (69%) in government schools. Among 15-17 year-olds, educational attendance was lower, with 65% at school and 9% attending a technical or further education institution or a higher education institution.

Education participation continued to decline with age, with 44% of 18-19 year-olds and just under one-quarter (24%) of 20-25 year-olds remaining in education.

Non-main English-speaking birthplace

Participation in education was very high among young people born overseas in a non-main English-speaking country. Almost three-quarters (72%) of them were attending an educational institution. Much of this participation was among older youth, with 79% of 18-19 year-olds and 57% of 20-25 year-olds remaining in education.

Indigenous people

Among Indigenous youth aged 12-25 years, 5,432 (38%) were attending an educational institution in 1996. However, most of the participation was in the younger age groups, with 88% of 12-14 year-olds and 38% of 15-17 year-olds in education. Just 11% of 18-25 year-olds remained in education.

Education and labour force status

Many young people attending educational institutions were also in the labour force (46%). Among 15-25 year-olds who were at school or attending a tertiary or other institution full-time, labour force participation was largely in part-time work. Over 31% (29,716) were employed part-time, and 4% were looking for part-time work.

Labour force participation among part-time students aged 15-25 years was much higher (91%), and their involvement was predominantly full-time. Almost 61% of these students were employed full-time, and another 5% were looking for full-time work.


In the five years from 1991 to 1996, the proportion of 15-25 year-olds with post-secondary qualifications increased from 17% to 20%. Among persons aged 26 years and over, the proportion increased from 32% to 35% over the same period.

The levels of qualifications attained by young Western Australians were higher in 1996 than in 1991. The proportion who had attained a bachelor degree or higher increased from 4% (11,322) to 6% (18,078).

While the same proportions of young females and males held post-school qualifications (20%), the level of qualifications varied. The qualifications most commonly held by young females were bachelor degrees (7%), followed by basic vocational qualifications (5%). For young males, skilled vocational qualifications (10%) and bachelor degrees (5%) were the most commonly held levels.



Labour force status

In 1996 there were 189,479 Western Australians aged 15-25 years in the labour force, that is, either employed or looking for work. They made up 23% of the total labour force (830,037 people). The majority (87%) of these young people were employed.

Participation rates

The labour force participation rate for young people in 1996 was 67%. For the 15-19 years age group, Western Australia had the highest level of labour force participation of any of the States and Territories, with 53%. For young people aged 20-25 years, the labour force participation rate was 77%, one percentage point below the national average.

The participation rate among Indigenous 15-25 year-olds was 47%. Among young people born overseas in a non-main English-speaking country, the participation rate was 40%. This reflected the high level of educational participation by this group.

Full-time work

The proportion of young people employed in full-time work in Western Australia increased by less than 1% between 1991 and 1996, to 35%. The proportion of older people (aged 26 years and older) who were employed full-time also increased slightly, to 39%.

Part-time work

Part-time employment increased for both young and older people in Western Australia between 1991 and 1996. The proportion of 15-25 year-olds working part-time increased by 6 percentage points to 22%, and for older people, from 15% to 17%. There were higher proportions of young women employed part-time in 1991 (19%) and in 1996 (26%) than young men (13% and 17% respectively).


In 1996, the unemployment rate for young people in Western Australia was 13%, compared with 6% among older people. The age group with the highest rate of unemployment (16%) was 18-19 year-olds, and for 20-25 year-olds it was 12%. The unemployment rate for 15-19 year-olds (15%) was the lowest of any State or Territory.


The largest proportions of employed young people were working in Retail trade (26% or 42,609); Manufacturing (10%); and Property and business services (8%). For older people, the largest industries of employment were Property and business services, Health and community services, Manufacturing, and Retail trade, each employing approximately 10%.


In 1996, 19% (29,180) of young people in Western Australia were employed as Elementary clerical, sales and service workers. The largest proportion (18%) of older people were employed as Professionals. For young men, the most common occupations were Tradespersons and related workers (29%), Labourers and related workers (18%), and Intermediate production and transport workers (13%). Young women were most commonly employed as Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers (31%), Elementary clerical, sales and service workers (26%), and as Professionals (11%).


Many young people (14%) reported that they received no individual weekly income. Among young women, the most common weekly income range was $200-$299 (12%), and for young men, 11% reported receiving $300-$399 per week.