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Young workers’ concerns over Federal Government subsidising exploitation
News from young workers

Young workers’ concerns over Federal Government subsidising exploitation

The Young Workers Centre has raised concerns that the Federal Government’s apprentice wage subsidy scheme will lead to “government funded exploitation” unless structural problems with the apprenticeship system are urgently addressed. 

The subsidy, which only applies to apprentices in their first year, effectively provides employers with a cheap pool of labour without conferring on them any responsibility for the ongoing welfare and training of apprentices. 

Apprenticeship completion rates have fallen dramatically over 4 years, from 115,190 in 2016 to 88,685 in March 2020. Apprentices are experiencing wage theft, discrimination, safety issues and lack of supervision. 

Since March, the number of apprentices reaching out to the Young Workers Centre has doubled, and apprentices now account for nearly 50% of all calls to the service. 

Quotes attributable Felicity Sowerbutts, Director, Young Workers Centre:

“Given the number of calls we are already getting from apprentices, we can’t help but suspect this subsidy will result in government funded exploitation”.

“The last thing we need to see is dodgy employers taking advantage of the cheap labour provided by the subsidy, with no regard for supervision, training or safety.”

“This strategy doesn’t solve the issues that apprentices have faced from dodgy employers long before the pandemic – eg. Wage theft, unsafe workplaces, bullying and harassment.” 

“We can’t subsidise wages for apprentices and trainees for a year, while ignoring the fact that apprentices are experiencing abuse at work.”

“The plan to subsidise the wages of apprentices and trainees will no doubt provide ample hi-vis photo opportunities for Government ministers.”

Felicity Sowerbutts is available for comment. The Young Workers Centre can arrange apprentices to give comment on their experiences. 


Media Contact Edwina Byrne 0409 017 140