Literature Review on Unemployment

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Literature Review on Unemployment


Unemployment is recognised as one of the most challenging social problems currently facing Australia. In the last two decades and more recently with the global recession high levels of unemployment have become an established feature of the South Australian social and economic landscape, with young people aged 15 to 24 years among those hardest hit by unemployment. In the past quarter the unemployment rate in South Australia has remained steady at 5.6% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009) but this figure is volatile and may increase next month. The youth unemployment rate, however, in South Australia remains at 21.9% with the Western and Northern suburbs having significantly higher rates of 31.6% ( Workforce Information Service).

People of all ages are affected by unemployment but young people aged 15 to 24 years are affected disproportionately. Youth unemployment in South Australia is commensurate to the national average of 26.3%. The youth unemployment rate is now the highest it has been since November 2001(ABS, 2009).Given South Australia’s low population growth and economic growth rates, high youth unemployment rates are likely to continue (Hugo, 1999).

The effects of unemployment on health and well-being have been studied in detail since the rise of unemployment in the late 1970s. This has resulted in a substantial body of research concerning the health effects of unemployment- research that shows a strong association between unemployment and ill health. There have been specific studies on the effects of unemployment on women, adult men, indigenous Australians and immigrants but my interest has focussed on the effects on unemployment and young people given that employment plays a pivotal role in helping young people to negotiate the transitional period between the child and adulthood, as it is a key factor in healthy identity development (Erikson, 1968). Despite this acknowledgement and research there are very few intervention programs addressing the health issues associated with unemployment.

This literature review will outline the nature of the health problems associated with youth unemployment, the key ‘moderating’ factors that assist, the small number of intervention programs in this area and the need to develop a coordinated policy framework to address this complex social health issue.


Keywords such as ‘unemployment and youth’, ‘youth unemployment and health effects’ were initially used and databases including Informit, Proquest, Expanded Academic ASAP, Journals@Ovid, Web of Science and Web of Knowledge were accessed. The Australian Bureau of Statistics database was used to obtain current figures on unemployment. Additional keywords such as ‘youth unemployment and public health policies’, ‘youth unemployment and health promotion, ‘youth unemployment and programs and interventions’ were also used. Journals including Social Science and Medicine, Medical Journal of Australia, Youth Studies and Australian Journal of Social Issues were accessed. In the initial search titles of books, not journals, appeared so a more specific search was required to access journal articles. Many of the articles, however, are more than 5 years old.The searches were supplemented by references in key publications. The main themes seem to that being unemployed has deleterious health consequences but that having meaningful activities and social support can decrease the harmful effects.

The Absence of employment

Being employed has financial benefits that are unattainable to the unemployed. Without sufficient income many young people are unable to live independently and support themselves adequately. As well as meeting basic material needs, employment offers many non-financial benefits. Having a job provides the individual with a sense of identity, a valued social role and a sense that they are part of society because they are contributing towards the ‘common...
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