Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1718 ..
MR KAINE: I am not going to shout over the Opposition either, Mr Speaker. I ask the Chief Minister: What are you doing to ensure that the true state of youth unemployment is properly reported, particularly in the analysis of that information by the media?
MRS CARNELL: Obviously, it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that there are 42.6 per cent of Canberra teenagers unemployed. This is not what the Bureau of Statistics figures say, and the bureau itself will tell anyone who cares to listen exactly that. In fact, according to the bureau's figures, during September 1995 there were some 23,900 ACT residents between the ages of 15 and 19. Of these 23,900, a total of 1,500 were looking for full-time work. As Mr Kaine said, that is 6.3 per cent. I repeat: 6.3 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds in Canberra were unemployed in September, not 42.6 per cent. In layman's terms, that means that one in 16 Canberra teenagers was unemployed, not the nearly one in two reported in the media.
The misleading reports arise from a misunderstanding of what the labour force data actually measures. The headline youth unemployment rate of 42.6 per cent refers to the unemployment rate of 15- to 19-year-olds who either have a full-time job or are out in the labour market looking for a full-time job. It ignores completely the vast majority of ACT teenagers, who are either at school or in full-time study at a tertiary institution. At the moment in the ACT, almost 19,000 of the 23,900 15- to 19-year-olds fall into that category. They either are at school or are full-time tertiary students. The remainder are such a small number of teenagers that any survey is subject to heavy qualification about its accuracy and is subject to huge fluctuations on a month-to-month basis. The previous Government is well aware of these fluctuations since they presided over a youth unemployment rate that, I think, went as high as 55 per cent at one particular time. The Bureau of Statistics fully acknowledges that there is a wide margin for error in these statistics.
Mr Berry: No, they do not.
MRS CARNELL: Actually, they do. All we can say for sure is that the headline youth unemployment rate for September is somewhere between 26 per cent and 58 per cent. It is clearly not good enough for a government to be working with such a hazy picture of what the problem actually is and, in order to clear up the confusion, staff from my office met with the Bureau of Statistics yesterday. I note that Mr Berry branded my request for more information from the bureau as some sort of cheap shot. This is true form, I suppose, for Mr Berry, who demonstrated while in government that he preferred to remain ignorant rather than get the full picture on most issues.
The Bureau of Statistics was very keen to do what it could to clear up this confusion, and I am happy to report to the Assembly that, starting from next month, additional figures will be provided by the bureau to give us a clearer picture of the youth unemployment problem. For a start, they will be providing an extra set of figures that show how many teenagers are at school or in full-time tertiary study, at the same time as they provide youth unemployment figures. As well, they will prepare a trend figure for youth unemployment each month, to try to smooth out some of the big fluctuations to which this particular statistic is subject. Finally, and quite significantly, from January they