Source: The Australian, Tuesday, 16 December, 1997, p.3
By economics correspondent IAN HENDERSON JUST how tough it is for the unemployed to find work has again been confirmed in this groundbreaking study of the labour market in the late 1990s. Much popular comment has highlighted the difficulties faced by young people looking for a job. But the Australian Bureau of Statistics' first survey of employment and unemployment patterns has thrown the spotlight on a second disadvantaged group: middle-aged job seekers who are more often than not the key breadwinners for households. Almost one in five unem- ployed, underemployed-and dis- couraged 45 to 59-year-old job seekers spent the two years, from late 1994 until late 1996, unsuccessfully looking for work. That finding should reinforce policy-makers' efforts to back up a comprehensive effort to boost job creation with widely available opportunities for retraining and generous income support. But the ABS has also uncovered a second, probably more surprising feature of the labour market at the end of the millennium: job stability has been replaced by constant change. From May 1995 to May 1996, almost one in five of the 875,000 job seekers spent the time either switching between periods of looking for work or periods in work. And finding a job was not the end of the game. Half the job seekers of early 1995 were working by late 1996-but 22 per cent of those employed were again on the lookout for a new job. Some who found one of the less secure jobs - part-time, casual or short-term - were teenagers simply looking for a start or some ready cash but many were more advanced in their labour market experience. That discovery probably defies the picture and the hope most people have built up of a stable work pattern. But it is undoubtedly one that must be assimilated by policy-makers, teachers and advisers planning for the future -for which the only assumption worth making is that times will remain tough for job seekers.
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