The Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands region has the highest number of unemployed youth in New South Wales, according to a report released this week. The region’s youth unemployment rate has grown to 28.9 per cent for under 24-year-olds, more than double the national rate.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence report drew on Australian Bureau of Statistics. The report revealed the national youth unemployment rate to be 12.2 per cent, and highlighted the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands as the second hottest spot for youth unemployment in the country. In also found the local youth unemployment rate had increased by more than 10 per cent in the last two years

“One of the biggest things is people just don’t have the income to support themselves so they find it really difficult to afford rent and food and all the normal things that young people want to do,” Labor candidate for Gilmore Fiona Phillips said.

“There’s a lot of under-employment as well, so there might be people who might be able to get a few hours of work a week but they’re still counted as employed and that’s a real issue as well because if they wanted to get a loan for something it is difficult to do that based on the income that they’re getting.”

Ms Phillips highlighted how the lack of employment opportunities for young people in the Shoalhaven region had caused many people to stop looking for work.

“Our workforce participation rate in the Shoalhaven is the lowest in Australia and it’s been going down each year. What that means is young people are disengaging, and when they’re disengaging it brings up a lot of social issues. It’s a real problem in the area,” she said.

The workforce participation rate measures the number of people actively looking for work. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australia-wide rate is 65.7 per cent, 59.3 per cent in New South Wales, and 46.7 per cent in Shoalhaven.

Natahlia Barca, a 24-year-old jobseeker and university student, has had no luck looking for work in the Nowra area. She is disheartened about her employment prospects.

“I moved here about one and a half years ago and gave up looking for work after a year of not even getting a reply to applications,” she said.

Nathan Locke, another Shoalhaven jobseeker, has been searching for employment for six months.

“The biggest issue I’ve found is never being given a chance. Everybody requires experience or, at the very least, has to know somebody already employed there to get a foot in the door. It makes it hard to show what I can do,” he said.

“I’ve had a few jobs over the years but they’ve been almost completely by chance. The employer needed staff as soon as possible and hired whoever applied first. It’s 50 per cent experience, 25 per cent luck and 25 per cent timing.”