New research from the University of Sydney in Australia found that young people from the country have higher qualifications than previous generations, but they’re struggling to find a place to work, and they’re swimming in debt.
The problem of youth unemployment is felt across most of the developed world. Young people today are paying more and more for an education which doesn’t offer them the skills to succeed in today’s job market – or which is preparing them for a job market which doesn’t exist. The workforce demand is rapidly shifting, but education isn’t shifting fast enough to adapt to it. That youth people, despite being more educated, are having a harder time getting employed is extremely worrying.
Australians in particular seem to be having a rough time. The report by advocacy and research group the Foundation for Young Australians suggests this generation may be the first to contribute more to the government than they receive, due to ageing population, increasing health costs and student debts.
“Sometimes we tend to blame the individual young person – sometimes they blame themselves,” said the foundation’s Jan Owen. “But there are clearly systemic, global changes driving this.”
He went on to highlight the appalling disparity:
“On the one hand, you’ve got young people studying harder, managing more debt, and working harder, with much higher skills required at entry level in a really casualised, unstable world of work with little return on their investment in sight; and on the other hand you’ve got the government not prioritising investment in education that’s fit for purpose. It’s a massive disconnect of priorities, almost intergenerational inequity.”
Australians aged between 18 and 26 are 1.7 times more likely to hold an undergraduate degree than their parents’ generation. But the same generation is 3.4 times less likely to be employed. Also, the average cost of a three-year bachelor degree has gone from free for a student in 1985, to $10,342 in 1991 and $26,298 in 2016. The gender gap is also taking a toll, with women being even more at risk of unemployment, and generally receiving significantly smaller salaries.
According to SMH, Ms Owen said a brighter future was possible if the education system was refocused on the skills the industry wants, and if governments placed young people at the centre of economic policy.
But this clearly is a far-reaching problem – and one for which there are no clear-cut answers.