Hope you’ve got two free hands, baby boomers: you’ll need one to clutch at your pearls and the other to check your hip pocket.
There’s a “new breed of Aussie bludger” sneakily funnelling your tax dollars to pay for their latte lifestyles and bad decisions.
That’s right, an entire army of young Australians “unwilling to work”, who would rather spend their days “sleeping, watching TV or playing computer games” than looking for jobs — at least, that’s what the News Corp wants you to think.
A new study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows 580,000 young people, aged 15 to 29, were categorised as NEETs last year; an acronym that stands for Not in Employment, Education or Training.
One in five young Aussies will spend at least a year as a NEET from the ages of 16 to 24, with young women at least 50 per cent more likely to carry the label because of child care responsibilities, those sneaky buggers.
Now, forget for a moment that in a context of soaring house prices, piles of debt and a shortage of real, long-term employment opportunities there’s a very real possibility this generation of young people will be the first actually worse off than their parents.
And forget that there’s a complex system built on entrenched disadvantage and privilege, that means finding work — and keeping it — is easier for some people than others.
Now, News Corp wants you to meet 21-year-old Ashleigh Whiting who would rather “munch on Maccas and take her Holden Barina on ‘off-road tracks’ than look for a job”.
Watch: Twenty-somethings share their thoughts on buying property. (Post continues after video.)
The young woman from Western Sydney says she doesn’t want to “work my whole life and just die” and uses her meagre allowance from Centrelink to pay her rent. A real piece of work.
Ashleigh is presented as the typical NEET; young, able-bodied, entitled and apparently absolutely content to let hard working, middle-class boomers pay her way and probably her smartphone bill.
Ashleigh is one of the two-thirds of NEETs who aren’t actively look for work. But while News Corp’s Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, among others, characterises them all as a bunch of lazy “bludgers”, the OECD paints a very different picture.
Never mind that young people with low levels education, many of whom would come from low socio-economic backgrounds, are at far higher risk of becoming NEETs.
Or that young women are particularly vulnerable and nearly half of those surveyed say they want to find work but can’t without affordable childcare solutions and flexible work arrangements.
Rather than blaming these disadvantaged youth for their predicament and unfairly tarnishing their character based on inaccurate stereotypes of class, gender and misconceptions of entitled millenials, here’s a novel idea: why don’t we help them out?
In fact, that’s exactly what the OECD report suggests. Quelle surprise!
Among other things, they recommend identifying at-risk youth early on and working with schools and social services to keep them in education.
They also suggest creating more affordable child care options so that young mums aren’t left in the lurch.
Oh, and better training programs for young job seekers. This would seemingly go hand-in-hand with a much-needed overhaul of the government’s current assistance programs — and no, I’m not talking about paying them less than the minimum wage to undertake dodgy “internships”.
A year ago today, our then newly-minted Prime Minister declared there’s “never been a more exciting time to be an Australian”. Maybe we should try and make that true for young Australians by giving them a leg up, instead of calling them names and consistently kicking them while they’re down.