• Edwin and George

Young people in employment: a total disgrace

What do young people want from the world of work?


The Financial Times gave a view last week:


‘Tired ideas about job hoppers who want a sense of meaning are a distraction.

Most youngsters want what their parents and grandparents wanted: a decent income, a chance to progress and enough security to build a life on.

The truth is too few of them are getting it.’(1)



Research company Gallup also has a view (2):

  • The organisation cares about employees' wellbeing

  • The organisation's leadership is ethical

  • The organisation is diverse and inclusive of all people

  • The organisation is financially stable.

So, how are we doing?

Here’s the evidence for Australia:

  • At the end of 2020, one in three young people in Australia were unemployed or under-employed.

  • In June 2020, the rate of youth unemployment hit an all-time high. (3)

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison enthused about there being more jobs in Australia now than before the pandemic, but that’s hardly true - for those 25 and older 77,600 more are employed than before the crisis. For those aged 24 and under, over 100,00 less are employed. (4)

  • Employment as a proportion of population is 2 percentage points lower than it was in March 2020 for people aged 16 to 24. (5)

  • Of the more than 870,000 Australians who lost their jobs in the first months of the pandemic crisis, 332,200 – or 38% – were young Australians aged 16 to24.

  • As of February 2021, the overall unemployment rate had fallen to 5.8%, compared with 6.1% in February 2020. The youth unemployment rate meanwhile was 12.9%, compared with 11.5% the year before - a further 16% were underemployed. (6)

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics data from August 2019 shows young people comprised 17% of the workforce yet accounted for 46% of all short-term casual employees. (7)

  • JobMaker, the program designed specifically to encourage employment of younger workers, has proven a monumental flop.(8)

  • JobKeeper has kept proportionally fewer young people in jobs. Changes allowing withdrawal of superannuation will hurt them more in the longer term.

  • The Reserve Bank of Australia estimates JobKeeper payments kept at least 700,000 workers off the dole queue. But to qualify, employees had to have been working for their employer for a minimum of 12 months.

This disproportionately excluded younger workers – being more likely to be recent workforce entrants, to switch jobs and be employed in casual or other forms of insecure work.


Of those employed, 26.4% of young people had been with their employer for less than 12 months, compared to 6.5% of those aged 25 and over. So one in four young people employed were not eligible for JobKeeper, compared with only one in 16 of their older counterparts. (9)


But what’s it like to be a young person who is lucky to have a job? Not a casual job, or a job in the gig economy – but a ‘proper job?’

Dan Lyons was a journalist before he was made redundant in his 50s.


Struggling to find employment, Lyons joined a digital marketing company. All the staff at the company were young college graduates in their first or second jobs – except Lyons, another guy over 50, the founders and senior managers.


Here’s how Lyons describes the working experience:


  • Welcome to your new job.

  • First, you are lucky to be here.

  • We offer no job security.

  • Also, we do not care about you. This is not a career. You are serving a short-term tour of duty. We provide no training, or career development. If possible, we will make you a contractor, rather than an actual employee, so that we do not have to provide you with benefits.

  • We will pay you as little as possible.

  • We do not care about diversity. Ethnic minorities need not apply. Your job will be stressful. You will work long hours under constant pressure and with no privacy. You will be monitored and surveilled. We will read your emails and chat messages, and use data to measure your performance.

  • We do not expect you to last very long. Our goal is to burn you out and churn you out. Your managers may not know what they are doing. They also may be abusive. If you are a female, there is a good change you will be sexually harassed.

  • HR will not help you.

  • If you file a complaint, you will probably be fired. If you turn forty, you will be fired. You may be fired even if you are doing a good job. You may be fired for no reason at all.

  • We do not offer a creche.

  • We do have ping pong.

  • There are snacks and beer in the kitchen.’ (10)


Young people in employment – a total disgrace.


  1. Financial Times, 28t April, 2021

  2. Four Things Gen Z and Millennials Expect From Their Workplace. 30 March 2021

  3. Australia Bureau of Statistics

  4. The News Daily, 25 April 2021

  5. The News Daily, 15 March 2021

  6. The Conversation, 7 April, 2021

  7. COVID-19: Impacts on casual workers in Australia—a statistical snapshot, Parliament of Australia

  8. The Conversation, 7 April, 2021

  9. How many jobs did JobKeeper keep? Reserve Bank of Australia

  10. Lab Rats, Dan Lyons

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