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21 April 1999

Opinion Page Editor

Australian Financial Review

Dear Sir

Stephen Long reports (21 April) research by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum highlighting difficulties for 20-24 year olds in finding quality employment. He suggests one young mother's experience in obtaining casual work only "shows the limits of labour market deregulation as a remedy." Long's solution is for Governments to improve the attractiveness of young people to employers.

However, Australia does not have a deregulated labour market. If it did, there would likely be a substantial reduction in part-time work because of the greater flexibility available to employers to vary employment arrangements. In the less regulated US labour market, for example, the proportion working part-time is about half that here.

Further, although the job experience of Australia's 20-24 year olds may be relatively poor, research suggests that this is not sustained. For 25-44 year olds, unemployment rates are much lower (6-7 per cent compared with 11-12 per cent) and proportions employed are relatively high (around 75 per cent compared with 68 per cent for 20-24 year olds).

Of course, education, particularly literacy and numeracy levels, and training need improvement. However, less regulated labour markets encourage employers to invest in training and 20-24 year olds to invest in themselves. Creating conditions conducive to self-help is better than putting reliance on Governments.

Yours faithfully

Des Moore

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