Thursday, January 30, 2003

Dropouts face life of poverty,say CEOs

At least 80,000 young Australians likely to leave school early over the next decade risk forming an underclass who face long-term unemployment and poverty, business leaders have warned.

The Business Council of Australia, [ruling class] which represents the CEOs of the nations' top 100 companies, [and head-kicker's for John Howard] said only urgent action from federal and state governments to improve school retention rates and participation in education will avert what they call "community disaster". [Social Services which they don't want to pay.]

In its report, The Cost of Dropping Out, the council says 8000 students leave school every year without completing year 12 and with no significant prospect of finding permanent work.

It estimated that if the current rate of early school-leaving continued, the overall cost to the Australian economy will be $2billion a year by 2020.

It found the situation has not improved over the past decade, with the number of students completing year 12 hovering around 67 per cent.

The report says 21 per cent of young men who left school in year 9 failed to find work, compared with 7 per cent of year 12 leavers. A massive 59 per cent of females who left school in year 9 were unable to find work.

The council's chief executive Katie Lahey, said: "Many people will find the prospect of an underclass at odds with a fair Australia. Yet that is exactly what we face if we do not tackle this problem quickly and effectively."

Ms Lahey said young people who drop out and don't go on to other training find it difficult to find employment and are sometimes condemned to a lifetime of social and economic hardship.

"It's a really important issue, not just from a business point of view but from a community point of view," she said. "The broader community pays through higher [social services] costs, higher health costs, higher crime rates and other social impacts. And businesses face labour and skill shortages."

Ms Lahey said the ongoing reduction of unskilled or low-skilled jobs in the job market would cut opportunities for early school leavers.

The research highlighted a number of factors contributing to dropping out of school, including living in rural areas, coming from a low socio-economic background and having poor literacy and numeracy skills.

She said a more co-ordinated response was required which included improved school programs, better job and career advice and the use of management and mentoring.

A spokesman for the federal Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, said that while the report made a valuable contribution, other options were available to school leavers.

"It is the Government's view that all young people must be encouraged to achieve their best," he said. "For as many as possible that will mean completing year 12 but the other options of TAFE, vocational education and new apprenticeships must not be undervalued."

By E Class Jan 30 2003


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