Why Young Australians Are Struggling to Find Work

Claudia Reiners
July 10, 2019

Why Young Australians Are Struggling to Find Work

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Are young Australian struggling to find work? Half of Australians under 25 are unemployed, finding the transition from studying to stable work to be a difficult one.

So what are the factors that are making it difficult for young Australians to find work, and what can we do about it?

If you’d like to read an updated version of this article, you can catch up on it here.

1) Times have changed

Simply put, the world is not what it used to be. Being married and owning a house by 25 is just not attainable for young people today as it was for previous generations. The issue, of course, is that while the landscape of work has changed, our approach to it hasn’t, which is part of the reason for soaring youth unemployment rates.

Only half of 25-year-old Australians
are employed full-time, which is a decline from 57% in 2006.

The situation is even more dire for younger people, with the Brotherhood of St Laurence reporting that one-in-nine people aged 15-to-24 are unemployed altogether. Even those who are employed may find that they are in a highly precarious position, with 1 in 5 juggling multiple jobs or working long hours in an unpredictable casual position.

Contrary to mainstream media representation, this isn’t due to a lack of work ethic among millennials: in fact, 17% of 15-24 year olds wish to work more hours but cannot secure them (the highest figure on record), or otherwise cannot find jobs in their field even after obtaining an education.

Many of these issues are due to the fact that young people tend to bear the brunt of economic downturn, with Australia’s rising unemployment rates and scarcity of jobs hitting young people the hardest.

While the lack of full-time employment among young Australians is a cause for concern, 9-5 work does not have to be the only option in today’s hyperconnected, digital world.

According to the Foundation for Young Australians’ The New Work Order Report, 70% of under-34-year-olds will use a digital talent platform to find work, such as Airtasker, Fiverr and the like. This could create an additional 270,000 jobs by 2025, drawing attention to the fact that full-time jobs don’t have to be the only option for young people today.

Policymakers and educators must support young people in reaching their employment goals, whether that’s full-time work or a successful freelance career.

2) Fewer available entry-level positions

Young Australians have the odds pitted against them, with there now being fewer entry-level positions available than there were in the recent past.

“Reality Bites: Australia’s youth unemployment in a millennial era”, a report published by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, found that there has been a 50% reduction in the number of entry-level jobs since 2006. There are simply too many job seekers for the number of positions available, making entering the workforce and developing experience even more difficult for young people.

There is now an urgent need for greater investment in job creation, as well as a need for better career advice to be offered to young people to guide them towards industries with a skills shortage.

3) Lack of experience

It’s almost become a cynical joke among young people that employers will ask for 10 years of experience when you’ve just graduated at the age of 21. While this is hyperbole, the reality is unfortunately not much better for young Australians. In fact, over 40% of unemployed young Australians attributed their struggle to a lack of work experience.

The higher education system can help to address this lack of experience by promoting work-integrated learning in courses. This can include work placements, internships and apprenticeships to equip young people with real-world experience before they enter the workforce. This will then make them a more desirable candidate in the eyes of employers, increasing their likelihood of securing stable work upon graduation. Such programs should address any deficiencies in job readiness and skills, and should involve collaboration between local service providers and employers.

4) Lack of appropriate education

Certain fields of study are currently oversaturated in Australia, meaning that there aren’t enough jobs for all young people upon graduating.


of graduates report they don’t use their skills and education in their current role


of unemployed young Australians believe they lacked the right education to obtain work

The situation will only get more dire for young Australians if we don’t change our approach now, with the FYA saying that 58% of university students and 71% of TAFE students are currently studying for an occupation that will cease to exist or transform dramatically in the next decade or so.

The education system needs to have greater transparency regarding the true nature of the job market, with attention being drawn to fields that are currently seeing a skills shortage such as STEM and healthcare. By making students aware of their job prospects and alternative career paths, they can make a more informed decision when it comes to their study choices.

Steven Joyce’s Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System has recommended introducing an industry-owned, government-registered ‘Skills Organisation’ system, that is expected to take charge of qualification development and training. By establishing a structured initiative to tackle the alignment of work-based skills with the changing workforce, we are one step closer to working towards a better equipped workforce, by placing industry experts at the forefront to combat these skills gaps.

5) Difficulty accessing transportation

Almost 30% of young Australians attributed their unemployment to a difficulty in accessing transportation. Young people in a difficult financial situation are less likely to own a car, and may also live in areas that are poorly connected to public transportation. In cases such as these, remote work opportunities and equipping young people with the skills to freelance in their industry could reduce the need to commute.

According to the Australian Council of Social Service, it is estimated that the average minimum cost of basic essentials in Australia for a single unemployed person was $433 per week. From this research, it is not feasible for the unemployed to manage necessary living expenses, along with the extra costs that come with job search (such as transport, phone calls, interview-appropriate clothing, and internet subscriptions) when living on unemployment benefits.

The odds are stacked against young Australians, with stable work being more elusive than ever.

Educational institutions are well-positioned to address youth unemployment by prioritising work-integrated learning and providing career advice that mirrors the true state of today’s workforce.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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