Opening address at the 2014 Y20 Summit

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

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It is a pleasure to be with you this morning at this opening ceremony of the Y20 Youth Summit and to welcome you to Sydney and Australia. 

At the outset I would like to thank the Co-Chairs of the Y20 Planning Group, Mr Josh Zwar and Ms Holly Ransom for their leadership, and the entire Y20 Planning Group for their efforts in preparing this Summit. It has involved a great deal of unpaid and voluntary work thus far, and I also take this opportunity to thank them in advance for the work to come over coming days.

The Australian Government is committed to supporting young people’s engagement with the G20 through the platform of the Y20 Summit.

This Y20 represents an opportunity for you to capitalise on your skills and present recommendations on the most pressing economic issues facing your generation.

Ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit in November, Sherpas, Finance Deputies and other engagement groups have been briefed on your priorities by members of the Planning Group and the Australian delegation.

I know the Y20’s agenda for 2014 is two-fold – to highlight the challenges of the present and to guide future policies, particularly in relation to youth unemployment, which is clearly one of the leading issues facing young people in G20 member states and globally.

The issue of unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment, is a reflection of sluggish economic growth, which we know has been a challenge in many countries around the world. 

In recent years, following the banking and sovereign debt crises, youth unemployment has increased and remained higher than previously, indeed brutally high in some countries and regions.

An increasingly globalised economy is one that provides increased opportunities for the competition and trade that drive economic growth, and governments cannot develop and implement policies in isolation. 

The causes of, and potential solutions to tackle youth unemployment will be improved if more countries take decisions to free up competition and access to markets that we know from our recent history drive economic growth and labour market opportunities. 

G20 Finance Ministers have committed to an ambitious goal, and taking action to lift global GDP by more than two per cent over the next five years, over and above what would occur simply under current policies.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in Davos in January 
…if the largest economies can individually achieve higher growth and can cooperate to achieve higher global growth, every country benefits. 

Global growth hinges on the strength of domestic economies, and G20 countries must deliver strong individual growth strategies with meaningful reform if we are to meet our collective growth objectives.

This growth ambition is a challenge not just for government and business, but for communities as well. 

That, of course, includes each of you here today and young people around the world. 

From my perspective, I can assure you the Australian Government is committed to working with everybody, including young people, to implement the policies that deliver real, sustainable economic growth in the private sector. 

A growing economy provides the job opportunities that all young people rightly desire, and that are a basis of economic citizenship.

Over the coming days, the Y20 has an opportunity to come up with concrete, practical policies and suggested actions to improve opportunities for all young people. 

Having been actively involved in responding to the banking and debt crisis, the G20 is now shifting its focus to driving sustained global economic growth. 

This entails a greater focus on medium to long-term issues. 

We can help address these challenges here if solutions on pressing issues like youth unemployment are practical and measurable.

I have a particular interest in youth unemployment. Since the financial crisis, most of Australia’s economic indicators have remained in positive territory. However, our youth unemployment rate remains a challenge.

We do not have anything like the levels of youth unemployment that some countries face. Nevertheless a stubbornly high youth unemployment rate is always a problem.

It worries me that even in the current economic environment, access to jobs remains difficult for many young people particularly those trying to enter the workforce for the first time.

One of the ways the Australian Government is tackling youth unemployment is to ensure that young Australians leave school equipped with the necessary skills to move into further education or employment. 

We’re doing this because we know for some young people, unemployment can lead to longer-term social and economic disadvantage. 

Safety nets and social security can buffer the impact of economic adversity on the most vulnerable in the labour market. 

But they cannot provide the opportunity for sustained employment and prosperity. 

The best thing governments around the world can do to get more young people into work is to ensure their policies support sustainable, long-term economic growth. 

A strong, stable and growing economy creates the right conditions for employers to hire.

Such economies also encourage entrepreneurs to take a chance.

Employers, educators and policymakers all need to do their jobs in addressing this. Employers need to be in a position to take risks to create jobs for our next generation of workers. Educators need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills employers need. And policymakers need to ensure the economic conditions are right for employers to ensure growing employment opportunities. 

But you, the Y20 delegates and your peers, need to share your own experiences, and develop ideas to address youth unemployment based on your own perspectives and experiences. This could be a powerful tool to produce sustainable long-term policy results. 

I am looking forward to seeing the recommendations developed over the coming days.

I encourage you to work to develop a concise, action-focused communique over the coming days.

Let me leave you with three messages. The Y20 will achieve its best outcomes if:

  • You develop and suggest practical policies to G20 leaders that are implementable and measurable, and particularly relate to each member’s G20 growth strategy;
  • You focus on what young people can do to drive economic growth, and address barriers to employment. This will be useful for all governments to hear; and,
  • You continue your advocacy for these implementable, measureable policies after the conclusion of the summit, when you return home.

You have a wonderful opportunity here, and I encourage you all to make the most of it. 

And just as importantly, I hope you enjoy your stay here in Australia, and that you will all have a chance to enjoy just some of what our wonderful country has to offer.

My very best wishes for the coming three days.

Thank you. 


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