Young Australians struggling to find work


My elder daughter is about to finish university. But, like so many young Australians, she faces an uphill battle to find work. A university graduate takes four years and eight months, on average, to make the leap from full-time study to a full-time job, reports the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA).

Thirty per cent of young Australians are either unemployed or under-employed and unpaid internships are replacing entry-level jobs. Certain industries, such as media, are shedding large numbers of professionals and 25% of young graduates do not use their university degrees in the workplace, says FYA's report, The New Work Order.

"Young Australians are facing much more insecure labour markets," says Jan Owen, the head of FYA, which has a partnership with the Business Council of Australia (BCA). She says getting a job depends on networks and without them you will have difficulty.


Kids studying at uni or TAFE need to beware of specialising in areas that will be killed off by technology. FYA says 58% of uni students and 71% of TAFE students are studying for an occupation that will be dead, or look very different, in the next 10 to 15 years. It estimates, on average, a young person today will have 17 jobs across five industries in their lifetime.

Look back over the past 25 years to see how much has changed. Nearly 500,000 secretaries and clerks have been displaced by computers; some 100,000 machinery operators, nearly 400,000 labourers and 250,000 technicians and tradespeople have disappeared. But in that period 400,000 new jobs in health and security services have been created plus 700,000 in financial markets and business services.

Technology means foreign workers can do jobs for Australia from remote locations. Management consultant McKinsey has estimated that 11% of local service sector jobs are at risk of being lost to workers in foreign countries. The jobs commonly shifted offshore include legal, IT, design, architecture and business services.

But technology has the upside of providing more flexibility: 70% of under-34-year-olds will use a digital talent platform such as Uber or to find work. FYA estimates this could add another 270,000 jobs by 2025. (As immigration adds some 190,000 people a year, we'll need them). And globalisation can be good for young graduates' employment prospects.

Technology has cut costs for starting a business by 65% since 2005, which has created more opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

On the downside, a third of jobs in Australia are temporary, part-time or from self-employment. And FYA warns that more than half of Australian workers will need to be able to use and build digital systems in the next two to three years.


Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
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