Generation Jobless: more than half a million young people underemployed or unemployed

01 September 2014

A new report has put the spotlight on the untold story of more than 310,000 Australians aged 15 to 24 who are underemployed - that is they have some work but want more hours.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data found when you add those who are without any work, more than 580,000 young Australians are now either underemployed or unemployed. Overall, this represents more than a quarter of 15 to 24 year olds in the labour market.

''This devastating data highlights just how much the job market has changed for youth attempting the transition from school to work in the Australian economy,'' said Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the national anti-poverty group.

"Young Australian are facing a dual assault on their aspirations for the future. The unemployment rate for young people now stands at the highest since 2001 and the underemployment rate for young people is the highest since 1978.

"As a nation we really need to develop the potential of our emerging generation, but far too many of our young people are now at risk of joining the ranks of 'Generation Jobless' in the modern economy," he warned.

Mr Nicholson's comments follows the latest national unemployment rate nationally for those aged 15 to 24 registering at 14.1 per cent in July – the highest rate since October 2001.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence report, Barely Working: Young and Underemployed in Australia, shows that:

  • With more than 15 per cent of 15-24 year olds in the labour market underemployed, young people are more likely to be in this limbo situation than at any time since 1978 when this ABS data series began.
  • The trend to youth being underemployed has intensified since the Global Financial Crisis.
  • The proportion of employed people between 15 and 24 years of age who are underemployed is now twice that among the overall working-age population.
  • Young people are much more likely to be employed precariously, on casual or fixed term contracts. For every year but one between 2001 and 2012 the proportion of employed young people in non-permanent work was more than 50 per cent, while for all age groups it ranged between 30 and 35 per cent.

Mr Nicholson said that the Global Financial Crisis had ushered in tighter labour markets, limited job opportunities and insecure employment – especially for young people.

"Young people really do aspire to the same mainstream life goals as their parents and grandparents - they want a home, a job, relationships and a decent income," Mr Nicholson said.

"Alarmingly, these goals are becoming unattainable for an increasing number of youth. There are fewer entry-level jobs and the work they can get is increasingly casual or temporary. These insecure jobs are more vulnerable to being axed and less likely to offer training and career advancement.

"The way we deal with young people going through one of the most vulnerable periods of their lives must foster aspiration and real hope, not further alienation.

"Just tinkering with welfare policy won't help and withdrawing benefits for some of our most marginalised young people will have harsh unintended consequences.

"Australia really needs a national youth transitions strategy to assist young people to build their qualifications, skills and experience to obtain a job and create a good future for themselves,''  Mr Nicholson said.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence's My Chance Our Future campaign is highlighting the issue of youth unemployment. 

Read our Barely Working: Young and Unemployed in Australia report.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeannie Zakharov, Senior Communications Manager, 0428 391 117, jzakharov(at)

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