The Road Home


Any society owes its young people the best possible opportunities to assume healthy and positive adult roles, both because the wellbeing of each individual is important in itself, and because of the potential contribution of individuals to the collective wellbeing.

The period between age 15 and 24 is a crucial developmental life phase, during which some major life tasks are expected to be accomplished, or at least begun. Psychological development, social transitions and changes in status are closely related. Young people are expected to establish a sense of personal identity and become progressively more independent of parents. They move from school into the workforce, either directly or via further education or training. The majority of young people leave home during these years to establish households of their own, with or without others. Most form intimate relationships with non-family members. And they assume what Anna Yeatman refers to as political and civil citizenship. In broad terms, this is the process of constructing an adult life.

Unemployment has profound effects at all ages, but the implications are particularly significant for young people, because they are at a point in their lives where issues of identity, differentiation from parents, sense of self and autonomy are paramount.

The choice for young people is often poverty if they remain at home and poverty if they go. We now have a number of reports, including the joint AIFS/YACVIC study of young people's incomes and living costs, and a report from the Youth Research Centre in Melbourne which describe the struggle that young people have living away from home on unemployment benefits. We also have very clear evidence of the close relationship between unemployment and youth homelessness.

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