A powerful reshaping of Australia’s youth labour market has ushered in an era of extreme job insecurity for the nation’s youth. In 2018, young Australians are far more likely to work part-time than 40 years ago.

Just as they are trying to launch independent lives, 20-somethings are especially hard hit, according to the new analysis by the national anti-poverty group Brotherhood of St Laurence for its latest Youth Unemployment Monitor, out today.

For tens of thousands of young Australians, their first ‘real’ job is likely to be a ‘survival job’—and a part-time one at that.

The disturbing report zeroes in on the employment challenges facing today’s young adults compared to previous generations, finding that more than 550,000 young people aged 20 to 24 are working part-time today. Notably, the report said this change was not because all young part-time workers were otherwise engaged in full-time study.

Indeed, more than 260,000 young people aged 20 to 24 who were not in full-time study had a job - but only worked part-time. The report, citing Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, said the trend towards part-time work for young people was fuelling high rates of youth underemployment - that is, when a person secures some work but wants more hours.

To gain an accurate picture of how young people were faring in Australia’s labour market both youth unemployment and underemployment needed to be considered, said Brotherhood Executive Director Conny Lenneberg.

‘Young Australians today face job challenges their parents and grandparents simply could not have imagined. The combination of stubbornly high youth underemployment and unemployment poses enormous risks, especially for young people experiencing disadvantage,’ Ms Lenneberg said.

‘Australia has entered its 28th year of uninterrupted economic growth, but the prosperity dividend has not been shared fairly with our young generation and they face many new uncertainties,’ Ms Lenneberg said.

‘As a nation we must intensify our efforts to tackle this deep challenge, and as a start, policymakers should move to offer all jobhunters aged 15 to 25 a specialist youth employment service rather than the nation’s current fragmented response.’

Australia’s youth unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds remains stubbornly high at 11.2 per cent (October 2018), while the underemployment rate for this age group exceeded 18 per cent. Overall, in October 2018 more than 643,900 people aged 15 to 24 were unemployed or underemployed.

The Brotherhood’s report, titled Part-time purgatory: young and underemployed in Australia, points to the reshaping of Australia’s youth labour market over the past four decades, accelerated by the economic downturns in the 1990s and, more recently, during the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC).

Compared with 40 years ago, 20-24 year olds today are four times as likely to work part time. Part-time work fuels underemployment.

In another measure, over the same period, rates of underemployment – defined as having part-time work but wanting more hours - have risen six-fold for 20-24 year olds.

Underemployment undermines young people’s ability to build strong financial foundations, and has longer term impacts on their economic security, the report warned.

Download: Part-time purgatory: young and underemployed in Australia

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