Young Australians Find it Harder to Get a Break

MEDIA RELEASE – 20 November 2013

Australia’s peak youth affairs body has called on employers to open up the job market to young people in order to improve the balance of work and life for their staff in the light of new research by The Australia Institute (TAI) showing that many Australians are overworked and experiencing impacts on their mental health, at the same time as many young people are underemployed or unemployed.

The research indicates that younger workers are twice as likely to be seeking more hours of work than workers in other age groups, with more than half of those aged 17-24 indicating that they wanted more work (53%).

Executive Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC), Gabi Rosenstreich said “young people are working hard to break into the employment market, but too many are being left out in the cold by a culture that overworks and stresses current employees rather than looking at ways to spread the load more effectively.”

“It makes no sense that we have a workforce that is struggling more and more with unreasonable – and unhealthy – expectations on staff well outside their paid hours, while many young people are struggling to get a foothold in the labour market. Not employing more staff is a false economy and leads to lower productivity.”

The TAI report, Hard to Get a Break? indicates that over half of all young people out of the workforce said that this is because they cannot find a job.

The research findings accord with recent AYAC research that shows youth unemployment as one of the issues that matter most to young Australians. As one research participant indicated, “time and time again employers hire those that have at least one to two years previous experience. How is youth able to get that experience in the first place if workplaces are seeking experienced employees?” (Sarah, South Australia). *

Ms Rosenstreich said “Many young people are only able to enter the workforce through casual employment, often with few hours at low wages and little potential to develop the skills and experience that will enable them to gain a foothold in the labour market and build futures for themselves and their communities.”

For many young Australians, this can be demoralising, as highlighted in AYAC’s 2012 research with disengaged young people, with one young person interviewed saying “Yeah we’ll take your resume and call you back and after going to the same places for a few weeks putting resumes in over and over and just the same thing it kind of just, I got over it and I just couldn’t be bothered trying to find work. A lot of the time it’s just you feel that it’s not worth it because there’s no one to really give you a go” (“Charles”) **

Rosenstreich said “Many young people in employment feel under enormous pressure and too often don’t stick up for their rights in the workplace”.  Hard to Get a Break showed that younger workers were more than twice as likely to say that it’s their ‘workplace culture’ to skip their lunch break (29 per cent of 17-24 year olds, compared with the average 12 per cent across all age groups). Findings also revealed that 50% of 17-24 year olds did not take their annual paid leave last year.

Ms Rosenstreich said “employers across the country should take a step back today and consider whether a culture of overworking is the way to get the best from their current employees, or if opening up opportunities for more young jobseekers could be beneficial to their workplace and for the country as a whole”

For further comment: 
Mr Reynato Reodica, AYAC Deputy Director (Youth Sector) – 0416 929 252

Additional information:

  • ABS data shows 16% unemployment among young people, compared with 5.7% for the population as a whole.
  • The report, Hard to Get a Break? will be released as part of Go Home on Time Day on 20 November 2013, an initiative of The Australia Institute in partnership with beyondblue and supported by a number of organisations nationally, including the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. See www.gohomeontimeday.org.au/latest-news (20/11/13)
  • The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) is the national voice for young people and the sector that supports them. AYAC’s vision is for an Australia in which young people are informed, empowered, encouraged and supported to participate in their communities. See www.ayac.org.au

________________

*  Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (2013) Australia’s Youth Matters. Young people talk about what’s important to them. Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. Sydney, page 4.
**  Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (2012), Beyond Learn or Earn: Young People tell how policy can better support those who need it most, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. Sydney page 21. Available on the AYAC website – http://www.ayac.org.au/learnorearn.html