Close Search
News  |  General

Young People Could be Worse Off than Parents

11 November 2014 at 11:03 am
Xavier Smerdon
Young Australians will be better off than their parents in health, technology and incomes but could be worse off in employment, housing, costs of living, the environment and quality of education, according to a report released today.

Xavier Smerdon | 11 November 2014 at 11:03 am


Young People Could be Worse Off than Parents
11 November 2014 at 11:03 am

Young people in Australia could be worse off than their parents in crucial areas, writes Michelle Grattan, chief political correspondent for The Conversation.

Young Australians will be better off than their parents in health, technology and incomes but could be worse off in employment, housing, costs of living, the environment and quality of education, according to a report released today.

Prepared by the Foundation for Young Australians, the Renewing Australia’s Promise report says that job prospects for young people are in some ways more uncertain than 30 years ago.

Youth unemployment is more than 13%, increasing four percentage points in the past six years.

“This rise has led to the average young Australian spending an additional five months unemployed when young,” the report says.

“Today’s young people are three times more likely to be in part-time and casual work than their parents were at the same age. And they are 3.5 times more likely to be underemployed.”

For today’s youth, work has become more precarious and they are more tenuously attached to the labour force – reflecting both circumstance and choice.

For some, the quality of job opportunities has fallen. “Others are juggling the competing demands of work and study, and many are coping with the financial impact of rising education expenses.

“Some will take advantage of a more flexible labour market, where careers are not set for life.”

But the situation can be dangerous for many young people, the report warns, because “periods of unemployment and underemployment can cast a long shadow, reducing earnings and career achievement over the entire working lives of those affected”.

“While youth unemployment today is broadly unchanged from a generation ago, the headline data masks a significant change in the attachment of young people to the workforce,” the report says.

“Youth underemployment has skyrocketed over the past 30 years from just over 4% to more than 16% today.

“Taking into account the unemployment and underemployment of today’s youth, the problem of insufficient work for young people is probably larger today than it was for their parents with close to 30% of young people in the labour force not working as much as they would like.”

While incomes for young people have risen “modestly” – their wages are 6.8% higher in real terms than 30 years ago – the report points out that expenses have gone up.

After adjustment for inflation, young people will on average pay 2.7 times what their parents did for their houses.

The parents of young people as they were entering the property market had an average home loan of $30,000, while for young people today the average loan for first home buyers is $308,000 – adjusted for inflation this is more than a tripling.

Educational attainment has risen significantly over the last 30 years, with the young 1.6 times more likely to finish school and 1.4 times more likely to gain tertiary qualifications.

But on some international benchmarks the quality of education is deteriorating, and the cost has risen dramatically since their parents' day.

“The cost of higher education may rise over the next several years by 30% above the around $24,000 on average that a university degree already costs, a far cry from the free education experienced by their parents.”

The report says that when young Australians were surveyed about whether their lives would be better or worse than their parents, only 22% said better.

“So fewer than a quarter … were confident they would exceed the living standard of their parents.

“If the majority of young people are correct about their future welfare, they will be the first generation of Australians to do worse than their forebears.”

The report says that recent Australian policy debates have focused heavily on the ageing population.

“But it’s our young people who will provide the real solutions to the ageing challenge. Young people will be the taxpayers, the health workers, the leaders and the carers. It is their ingenuity and toil that will power Australia.

“That is why the flourishing of young people is important not just for their own sake, but for the benefit of all of us.”

Over the next 40 years the number of people under 24 will rise from 4.3 million to 6.3 million.

Foundation CEO Jan Owen said Australia urgently needed a national conversation about the challenges facing young people.

The Foundation for Young Australians is an independent  Not for Profit organisation.

The report can be found here.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


Get more stories like this


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Meet Pro Bono News’ first editorial advisory board

Wendy Williams

Thursday, 16th April 2020 at 8:02 am

Unpaid Carers Facing Significant Economic Disadvantage

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 21st August 2018 at 3:45 pm

NFPs Driving WA Economy, Report Says

Wendy Williams

Wednesday, 15th February 2017 at 4:20 pm

Study into the Effect of the NDIS on Carers

Lina Caneva

Wednesday, 25th January 2017 at 9:26 am

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

We need your help.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Pro Bono Australia has seen a devastating fall in advertising and less people posting on our job board, which is how we fund our free news service. You can show us that you value the work we do by making a contribution.

 Make a contribution 

You have Successfully Subscribed!