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Generation stalled: young, unemployed and living precariously in Australia

A report released in March by the Brotherhood of St Laurence reveals that young Australians are being stymied by a lack of secure employment.

The report, Generation Stalled: Young, underemployed and living precariously in Australia found that young Australians are facing a far more difficult job market than their parents or grandparents. Underemployment has also become an entrenched feature of the youth labour market, making it increasingly difficult for young people without family support to find and keep secure housing.

Australia’s youth underemployment rate, where people have some work but want more hours, has surged to 18% – the highest it’s been in 40 years. That rate is even higher than the youth unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds in the labour force of 13.5 per cent, which has been persistently high since the 2008 global financial crisis. Today, almost a third of Australia’s youth labour force are unemployed or underemployed, with more than 650,000 young people unemployed or underemployed in February 2017.

The Generation Stalled report, drawing on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, 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.
  • 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 these were alarming developments.

“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,” said Mr Nicholson. “Young people starting out today face a much harsher job scenario than their parents and grandparents did.”