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Youth Underemployment at 40-Year High


28 March 2017 at 8:35 am
Lina Caneva
Australia's youth underemployment rate, where people have some work but want more hours, has surged to 18 per cent – the highest it's been in 40 years, according to new research.


Lina Caneva | 28 March 2017 at 8:35 am


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Youth Underemployment at 40-Year High
28 March 2017 at 8:35 am

Australia’s youth underemployment rate, where people have some work but want more hours, has surged to 18 per cent – the highest it’s been in 40 years, according to new research.

The report by national welfare not-for-profit organisation the Brotherhood of St Laurence, called Generation Stalled: Young, Underemployed and Living Precariously in Australia, found that in total, more than 650,000 young people were unemployed or underemployed in February 2017.

The research found that the rate was even higher than the youth unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds in the labour force of 13.5 per cent, which has been persistently high since the 2008 global financial crisis.

The report draws on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, and confirms several trends, including:

  • young people are far more likely to be in part time and casual jobs than in 2001;
  • the percentage of young workers in part-time jobs rose markedly to 60.8 per cent by 2014, the highest for the period;
  • the percentage of young workers in casual jobs has also risen since 2001, to 57 per cent; and
  • the growing number of young people combining study with work does not explain the rise in underemployment, as the rise in the proportion of young workers in casual and part time jobs has mostly been among those who are not also students.

The head of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Tony Nicholson, said the developments were alarming.

“Precarious employment is hindering the capacity of many young people, especially those without qualifications and skills, to build satisfying and productive adult lives, as the pathways that were open to their parents appear to have stalled,” Nicholson said.

“The record level of underemployment and stubbornly high unemployment particularly hurts the 60 per cent of young people who don’t go to university and lack the qualifications and skills to navigate the fast-changing modern economy.

“Stable work is the passport for our young people to build a good life for themselves. Young people starting out today face a much harsher job scenario than their parents and grandparents did.”

The report said young people were far more likely to be in casual and part-time jobs than at the beginning of this millennium.

The findings come as singer-songwriter Jimmy Barnes lent his voice to the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s campaign for youth employment.

Barnes, who grew up in Adelaide’s manufacturing heartland of Elizabeth, has contributed a column for the welfare group’s Youth Unemployment Monitor newsletter.

“From parents to governments, we owe it to the next generation to do better on this, don’t we?” Barnes wrote.

Barnes remembers that he didn’t look very hard for his first full-time job in 1973, aged just 16, but still obtained an apprenticeship as a moulder at the South Australian Railways.

“That job I did is now long gone, and if it exists anywhere is being done somewhere offshore,” he said.

“The world of work has become that much more complicated. Yet too often we keep blaming the victims of these huge economic changes rather than addressing the challenge of helping people into working life.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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2 comments

  • Avatar Robert Bray says:

    Technology advances have meant that the old requirement of someone with two hands and a working body aren’t enough.

    This isn’t changing and this sums it up nicely:
    “The record level of underemployment and stubbornly high unemployment particularly hurts the 60 per cent of young people who don’t go to university and lack the qualifications and skills to navigate the fast-changing modern economy.”

    Stay in school. Study something useful. Don’t assume people will want you because you’re keen.

    The future professional world has no place for the poorly educated or unqualified. If you find a job that’s OK with that, don’t expect to stay in it very long. People can and will complain about how it’s unfair, etc, but…. Life isn’t fair.

    • Avatar Robert Bray says:

      Need to clarify:

      By useful, I mean something that someone will actually pay for. The only difference that a degree that will never lead to a job makes is that it shows a potential employer you make very bad choices.

      Research your field, research your entry requirements, research where that field is going and make sure there’s a better reason for choosing to study X than it’ll be fun. There has never been nearly as much information available to the average person as there is now.

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