The transition to adulthood has traditionally been marked by the completion of key milestones such as completing school and further study, leaving home and becoming financially independent. The prospect of a good job that pays a fair wage has been key to Australia’s promise to our young people and their future prosperity.
Work has long been recognised as important for not just livelihood. It helps us meet our most basic and complex needs, providing a path towards financial security, mental and physical health, dignity and meaning.
Until recently it has been reasonable to assume that a young person would secure full-time work and be nancially independent by 25 years of age. But as the world of work changes the transition to full-time work is increasingly becoming longer for young people. They are spending more time in education to gain access to the growing number of jobs that require post-school quali cations, and the promise of secure full-time work is becoming more uncertain.
At 25, young people are increasingly reporting they feel like they can’t get anywhere and are struggling to navigate a career path in a rapidly changing world of work. This has been termed by some as the quarter-life crisis with reported prevalence increasing.
Struggling financially more than their parents did, this ‘crisis’ period of the mid-twenties is characterised by insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression. The stark reality is that today’s generation of young people is the first to be worse of than their parents on a number of key social and economic measures.
Prolonged periods of unemployment and underemployment have serious implications on a young person’s self-esteem and general mental health as they transition to adulthood. Today 40% of young people identify as having low levels of social and emotional wellbeing. Among 18 to 24 year-olds who are looking for work, 28% reported anxiety in the previous year and 41% said they were affected by stress.
This report explores the transition period from full- time education to full-time work and reveals that by the age of 25, only half of young Australians have been able to secure more than 35 hours of work per week which classi es them to be full-time employed (ABS definition). It also shows that on the journey to reach full-time work, an estimated 21% work full-time hours in casual employment, and 18% do so through multiple jobs.
By analysing the individual journeys of 14,000 young people over ten years (from when they are 15 years old to when they turn 25) using data from the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth (LSAY) this report sheds light on new transitions to work and demonstrates that the changing nature of work is already impacting on young Australians. The report reveals that young Australians face a number of significant barriers when seeking full-time work. When we removed common activities that young people do, such as gap years and returning for further education to look more deeply at the period, we found it took on average 2.6 years to transition from leaving education to full-time work. The reality is while nearly 60 per cent of young Australians aged 25 hold a post-school qualification, 50 per cent of them are unable to secure more than 35 hours of work per week.
Through comparing the journeys of young people who have secured full-time work compared to those who haven’t, the report identifies four factors that can accelerate the transition from full-time education to full-time work. These are: (1) an education that builds enterprise skills; (2) being able to undertake relevant paid work experience; (3) finding employment in a sector which is growing; and (4) an optimistic mindset. The report concludes that, more than ever before, young people need access to relevant, high-quality education and learning systems that reflect and respond to their changing and diverse needs, and those of the economy.