Exploring Unemployment In Australian Youth

From an early age, I have been surrounded by an inherent expectation that I would inevitably enter the workforce. Drilled into my brain from numerous sources all around me; my parents, family friends, teachers, media, the list could go on.

Growing up in a privileged home with two working parents, I was often shielded from the harsher realities of the working world and only over the past few years have I come to realize the nature of the difficulties faced by those looking for employment. An awareness that has only been more heightened by my own attempts to gain part-time work.

Now I in no way wish to whine about my so-called struggle to become employed nor create a narrative that paints me a victim to employers who ‘refuse’ to give me a chance. Instead, I’d like to examine the relationship of unemployment with the youth of Australia. Is there anyone underlying cause? Or is it merely just the result of a sum of random, albeit unfortunate, variables?

Currently, unemployment in Australia sits at approximately 5.6% for all age groups but jumps to around 12.61% in ages 15-24.

More than double the national statistic.

I’m sure to many young job seekers, the phrase “more experience” is often tossed around in the various forms of rejection that they might have faced in their search. Whilst I understand the desire for well or previously trained employees, how is it possible for newcomers to the field of work to gain experience if no one is willing to offer them a position in which they can gain experience?

It creates a vicious cycle in which young adults are barred from the very experience that would assist them in gaining employment.

However, in spite of the common portrayal of young people being kicked to the curb by potential employees, there is evidence that suggests that the actual number of youth participating in the workforce – referring to people in this particular age group actively searching for jobs – has significantly dropped over the past few years. This phenomenon has been explained by an increase in young people going on to engage in tertiary education in institutes such as TAFE or university, rather than entering the workforce.

A theory that is most definitely supported by the notable increase of individuals between the ages of 15 – 24 years partaking in education over the past decade; with the percentage of young women rising from 56% in 2006 to 64% in 2016, whilst the percentage of young men increased from 55% to 61%.

This highlights that the escalation in the demand for higher education in long-term employment has, in turn, had a large impact on the participation of youth in the workforce, correlating with the intense internal and external pressures placed on students to excel in their studies.

With the disheartening knowledge that likely only with a degree, doctorate, apprenticeship, or diploma will they be able to have access to a steady job in their future, it’s no wonder that Australian youth have begun to withdraw from the workforce. They are simply tackling one of the many obstacles on their path, the best way that they can.

Entering the workforce can be a daunting task, something I can vouch for, but understanding the complexities behind the unemployment of young adults is a first step in making positive change not only for the youth of today but also for those to come.


To those just beginning to seek out work, and to those who have been searching for quite some time, I truly wish you the best of luck.

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