Youth earning, learning and happiness after the GFC


While most of the country raised their glasses last Tuesday, the RBA
was raising interest rates by 25 basis points, sending a clear message
that Australia is entering a post-GFC era. But not everyone is ready to
celebrate. The findings of the 2009 How Young People Are Faring Report paint a dark picture for young people (15-24 year olds) in our post-crisis nation. The percentage of young people not engaged in full-time work or study has sharply risen since 2008, ascending to levels not seen since the early 1990s. More than a third of school leavers fall into this category in their first year after school, the highest level in over two decades of data. The proportion of young people in full-time employment has dropped to an all-time low. Barely half are satisfied with their lives as a whole, 43% are satisfied with their career prospects, and just 31% with the work they do.

This is not a reflection of the stereotypical withdrawn teenager, moping in their bedroom and ignoring polite requests for their music to be turned down. The report makes clear links between school completion, further education, full-time employment, happiness and career prospects. The government is seeking to ensure that more young people achieve a smooth transition from school to full-time work or study, but the report indicates that not only is it becoming harder for them to access employment, access to education is also strongly contingent on their background and where they live. A lack of employment or educational qualifications generally corresponds to a lack of life satisfaction and happiness. And with unemployment forecast to rise, full-time employment to fall, and limited
opportunities to access further education, young people will continue to find
it difficult to see the light at the end of the economic tunnel.

The How Young People are Faring report tells us that the prospects for young
Australians are grimmer than our rebounding GDP would indicate. In learning, earning and overall happiness, the Global Financial Crisis has had a profound impact on Young Australians, their lives, ambitions, and futures. Even if Australia is the only developed economy to stave off recession, it
is important not to lose focus of the fact that economic growth won’t reach everyone equally. As any morose teenager could tell you, every silver lining has a cloud.

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