Briefing paper

Growing youth employment: why is entrepreneurship an attractive strategy? Today, the job market in Australia is relatively buoyant – but not for young people. Australia is facing some of the highest youth unemployment and underemployment rates in recent times, particularly in regional centres. Structural changes in the Australian economy have left young people with fewer opportunities and with reduced prospects of any self-correcting, market-led solution to accessing sustainable employment. One strategy is not to find jobs but to create jobs – jobs that may look very different from existing ones, in markets that may not even exist now. Entrepreneurship, in its various forms, is the innovative response to this recognition. This briefing provides information on ways in which commercial and social entrepreneurship can create new employment, learning and engagement opportunities particularly suited for young Australians. It suggests that entrepreneurship can help address structural issues in the Australian labour market by diversifying the range of business enterprises that are developed, thus offering both additional training and employment opportunities for a range of young people, and encouraging more young people to develop their own enterprises. The term ‘entrepreneurship’ covers a wide range of activities. While in its most literal meaning, an entrepreneur can be anyone who operates a business, the term typically refers to the work of developing businesses that are distinguished by innovation in the business model adopted, by a higher level of risk associated with that innovation (especially with regard to the creation of new markets) and by the entrepreneur(s) retaining a significant level of control over the creation of the new business. Internationally, entrepreneurship is recognised as an increasingly important mechanism for stimulating economic development. Most actions designed to expand the entrepreneurial economy as a whole are likely to advantage young people. This is because many young people (particularly those experiencing disadvantage) are amongst the beneficiaries of expanding social enterprises, both as social entrepreneurs and as those receiving training and employment within social enterprises. Additionally, young people already form a large proportion of those interested in developing startups, because they are more likely to have skills in aspects of information and communications technologies, so often important for startups, and because they are often the demographic of choice as employees of high-tech startups with a public profile. The social enterprise and startup sectors have identified measures to develop Australia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We have summarised both current initiatives and stakeholders’ suggestions for ways forward for public policy and practice to be developed for entrepreneurship to grow youth unemployment.

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