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Counting the costs of lost opportunity in Australian education

Mitchell Institute report No. 02/2017

15 Jun 2017

There are huge costs associated with educational disadvantage in Australia. This report finds one in eight Australians will never attain a Year 12 qualification, and some of these people make up the one in eight Australians who will be disengaged from the workforce for most of their lives.

Early school leavers and disengaged young people

The costs of lost opportunity are based on people from two groups who remain disengaged from the workforce for more than half their lives. Described as ‘early leavers’ and ‘disengaged’these young people experience challenges during their time in education, then grow up to share many similar life and economic circumstances.

In 2014, there were almost 38,000 early leavers aged 19 and 46,000 disengaged people aged 24. All costs are based on the 2014 example cohorts only, and are intentionally conservative.

Costs of associated with lost opportunity

The are enormous costs associated with leaving school early and not being fully engaged in work, education and training.

For taxpayers, having 38,000 people aged 19 who will never achieve Year 12 or equivalent costs $315 million each year, and more than $12 billion over a lifetime. Having 46,000 people aged 24 who will be disengaged for most of their lives costs taxpayers $471 million each year, and almost $19 billion over a lifetime.

From the social perspective, the group of early school leavers costs governments and communities more than $580 million annually and more than $23 billion over a lifetime. The figures are even larger for the disengaged 24 year olds – $1.2 billion each year and more than $50 billion over a lifetime.

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