The transition from school to work

This section examines: Education participation and attainment Participation in full-time, part-time and casual work Youth unemployment Youth disengagement

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The Overview

Youth unemployment and disengagement are a growing concern

Unemployment and underemployment rates have increased since the GFC

Unemployment and underemployment rates for young people have increased since the 2008 GFC.  Almost one in three young people is either unemployed or underemployed.

In terms of unemployment in 2014:

  • the unemployment rate for young people not in full-time education was:
    • 12% for 15 to 24 year olds
      • 15% for 15 to 19 year olds
      • 9% for 20 to 24 year olds
    • 26% for Indigenous young people aged 15 to 24
  • since the GFC (2008), Australia’s youth unemployment rate has risen 4% for 15 to 24 year olds
  • young men were more likely to be unemployed than young women (13% compared to 11%)
  • Indigenous young people were more than twice as likely to be unemployed that non-Indigenous young people (26% compared to 12%).

Unemployment rate

In terms of underemployment in 2014:

  • 17% of young people aged 15 to 24 were underemployed, a rise from 11% in 2008
  • The underemployment rate was considerable higher for young females (19%) than for males (14%) (ABS 2014b)
  • Indigenous young people were more likely to be underemployed than non-Indigenous young people (59% compared to 32%).

Keep track of youth un-employment using the Brotherhood of St Laurence employment monitor

The proportion of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) is increasing

Some young people are not engaged in employment, education or training (NEET).  The NEET group are not homogenous, with some voluntary, and some not.  They have been categorised as including:

  • conventionally unemployed
  • unavailable – includes carers, sickness and disability
  • disengaged – not seeking employment or education but not restricted to do so
  • opportunity seekers – seeking work or education but holding out for opportunities befitting their skills and status
  • voluntary – travel, holidays, involvement in the arts etc (Eurofound 2012).

This group is an important indicator of the smoothness of the transition from education to work for young people (OECD 2013b).

In 2014, an estimated 13% of 15 to 19 year olds, and 26% of 20 to 24 year olds were NEET.  In recent years, the size of this group has been increasing because of an increase in the 20 to 24 year old age groups.  In 2014, 20 to 24 aged NEETs were more likely to be:

  • young women than young men (29% compared to 22%). The main reason is because women are more than twice as likely as men to take on caring responsibilities, such as looking after children.
  • Indigenous: in 2012/13 about two-thirds (67%) of young Indigenous women and half (51%) of young Indigenous men were not fully engaged.

HYPAF 2015 Page 8 - 21 year old NEETs

The main factors associated with being a NEET are low level of education, low household income, having some type of disability, immigration background, living in a remote area, and a difficult family environment (Eurofound 2012).  In tougher labour markets, the size of the NEET group will increase.

For most, NEET is a transient state (i.e. they are in the NEET category for relatively brief periods of time) and there are relatively few who stay NEET for long periods (Quintini et al 2007).

Where can I find the full report and previous reports?

Download our summary report card 2015

Download the full 2015 NCVER report or data tables

Download Previous Reports


  1. Young people are a vital resource
  2. Future challenges for young people
  3. The transition from school to work
  4. Contributing to and leading change