Another look at Cairns Youth

Following on from our previous post (see here), we have now had time to take a look at the data to determine what has been going on with Cairns youth employment and population data.

First we should acknowledge that the data-set which the ABS will be using when looking at Cairns youth between 15 and 24 will be very small; we can therefore expect to see very high levels of volatility. Even allowing for the fact that we are comparing Trend data, we will still high high levels of volatility which makes drawing conclusions problematic.

However, the graphs below give us at least some insight into what is going on. As we noted in our first post, the number of youngsters employed in Cairns has seen a dramatic decline over the past 3 years. Part of that decline can be slated to a sharp fall in the Participation Rate among youth in Cairns. What the charts below make clear is that (even allowing for the high volatility inherent in the data) we have seen a sharp decline in the size of the population in Cairns aged 15-24 over the past few years back to the levels seen in 2007. At the same time the total working age population in Cairns has been on a steady upward trend. As a result the percentage of the total working age population that are between 15 and 24 years old has fallen sharply. This percentage now sits at just over 13%.

The reality is that, as demographic shifts impact the Australian population, we have seen young people decline as a proportion of the total working age population across the state and country. In Queensland this has meant the percentage of youth falling by just over 1% over the past 16 years. In Cairns at present the proportion of youth to working age population is about 3% below its long term average. Even allowing for the vagaries of the data, it would seem certain that Cairns has been losing young people relative to the state as a whole.

Census data from 2001, and 2011 shows the percentage of 15-24 year olds in Cairns falling from 13% to just over 12% over the decade; in QLD the decline was just 0.1% to 13.6%.




  1. Gene Tunny says:

    February 25th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Very interesting. Could it be fewer backpackers coming to Cairns? And the ones that do come staying for shorter periods because they can’t find work?

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    February 26th, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Gene, that’s a possible source of some of the decline. However, I suspect we are seeing the effects of a “youth drain” from the region as unemployment has remained high, the tourism sector has grappled with a high A$ and successive State governments have failed to make any meaningful commitments to regional development.

  3. Mark Beath says:

    March 2nd, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Do international backpackers show up in the labour market survey? I will survey the illegal campervans outside next time there is an escalated agglomeration. I am somewhat circumspect about deriving population changes from the labour market stats.

  4. Pete Faulkner says:

    March 2nd, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Mark, I agree that calculating population stats from the Labour force survey is a dodgy procedure but the dramatic changes that doing so throws up (rather than any absolute levels) still look interesting. Either something is happening in reality or something of is going on with the data collection methodology. Pretty sure that international backpackers wouldn’t show up.
    Thanks for the comment.

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