The Cost to Australia of Early School-Leaving

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In recent years the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, in collaboration with a number of Australia's leading research organisations, has endeavoured to provide a comprehensive picture of the learning and work circumstances of young Australians. The results of that collaboration are documented in two landmark reports, "Australia's Youth: Reality and Risk" (1998) and "Australia's Young Adults: the Deepening Divide" (1999). It became apparent from these reports that those young people leaving school early are at much greater risk of becoming trapped in marginal activity, finding no secure place in either learning or work. Challenged by these findings the Forum determined to dig deeper to better understand this phenomenon as part of its continuing effort to identify more effective policy responses. This report is a further contribution to that cause. It has been prompted by a 1992 report by the Conference Board of Canada, "Dropping Out: the Cost to Canada". It attempts to do what has not been done before in this country: estimating the lifetime costs to the nation of a single-year cohort of early school-leavers. The Forum turned to NATSEM, a collaborator in both the earlier reports, to deliver on what was never going to be an easy task. This report is the product of their labours. At the draft stage this report has been subject to consultation with a number of key parties including government officials. It represents, we believe, a very significant contribution to this most important public policy debate.

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