They’re better educated and way cooler than any generation that went before.
Their dream job may well be the stuff of Silicon Valley dreams – chinos, T-shirt and laptop.
They may not live to work, but they certainly want to work to live, and the cockiness that goes with their assurance with new technology ensures heaps of abuse.
They may be the most vilified generation in history: some call them no-collar workers; others look at their endless hugging and dismiss them as teacup kids; in economically devastated Europe, they are boomerang kids who always come home, Peter Pans who never grow up.
But Generation Y is in danger of becoming the lost generation, the first since those Australians who survived the Depression to face a downwardly mobile work life.
Most will not earn as much as their parents. Working in a mobile store, computer shop, call centre or IKEA just won’t cut it. The education that was once the key to high pay and better lives now offers vistas of dead ends and detours as service industries shrivel, and state and federal government jobs vanish or are outsourced.
And while Ford flees and General Motors begs, the manufacturing industry – the traditional absorber of first-generation immigrants – is flatlining, leaving the school-to-work crowd out in the cold.
Some, such as Professor Michael Quinlan, from the University of NSW’s Australian school of business, wonder if government policy is creating a pool of permanently unemployed.
He says the 457 visas and the advent of backpackers from economically ruined countries are taking jobs from young people who once occupied the lower end of the job market. ”There’s a complete mismatch in Australia’s labour market,” Quinlan says. ”There must be thousands of people working here from overseas. Other countries have learnt to their cost what happens when you create a market that cannot absorb the young men who are the sons of the first generation of immigrants who come seeking a better life.”
The Gen Y plight has not been in hiding exactly but it broke from cover on Tuesday when the Herald ran an article by Sydney freelance journalist Georgia Leaker, on her travails gaining employment as a Gen-Yer with two degrees. ”I’m sick of being told that I’m lazy and mooching off the system,” the 24-year-old wrote. ”I don’t want to spend my week alone, on the couch, watching daytime TV … most of us are educated or skilled in some way and most don’t want to be dole bludgers. We’re just down on our luck and doing everything in our power to get a door – any door – opened. Take a chance on me and my generation.”
From smh杭州夜生活m.au, Leaker’s story went viral – more than 95,000 people read her self-described ”whinge”. She also received eight genuine job offers.
She’s lucky. Most of her cohort – the 4.2 million Australians born between 1982 and 1999 – have become like a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip.
In their parents’ day, the future beckoned. Apprenticeships, traineeships and cadetships abounded, and when baby boomers started flocking to tertiary education, in 1967 for example, only 95,290 were enrolled at university. Last year, the population had nearly doubled and enrolments totalled 1,094,672 as universities churned out graduates for disappearing jobs.
A Co-op Future Leaders Index white paper on attitudes of students, released on Thursday, found them fearful about jobs, with 40 per cent planning to start their own business, and 25 per cent considering further study.
John Spoehr, of the University of Adelaide’s workplace innovation and social research centre, says Gen Y weathered the global financial crisis far better than those in Europe and the US.
”But the programs and pump priming that staved off the GFC in Australia have now about run their course and I suspect a ‘second wave’ is about to hit,” he says. ”The next year or so will be difficult for Gen Y.”
On Thursday, the Bureau of Statistics announced that unemployment rose 0.1 per cent to 5.7 per cent last month.
On Friday, University of Canberra researcher Jenny Chesters told the National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference on the Sunshine Coast that one in four people aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed or underemployed. ”Despite 15 years of continuous economic growth, the Australian economy has been unable to provide appropriate employment opportunities for a sizeable proportion of Australian youth,” Chesters said.
The Australian Council of Social Service deputy chief executive, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, says the unemployment figures show young people are struggling to find work in a difficult job market and sinking into poverty.
”Over the past 12 months, there has been a 30 per cent increase in recipients of the Youth Allowance payment,” she says. ”The inadequacy of these payments has been recognised by the Henry tax panel, the business community, trade unions and many economists.
”Many young people are trapped in a vicious cycle of lack of education, lack of work experience and employers’ reluctance to give them a chance. These figures show that current employment and training programs are not meeting their needs.”
Many think Gen Y is a fairly narcissistic group but there are those among them whose voices are rarely heard.
The Productivity Commission spoke for some of them on Thursday, releasing a staff working paper, Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia. It found ”people who are more likely to experience deep and persistent disadvantage included lone parents and their children, indigenous Australians, people with a long-term health condition or disability, and people with low educational attainment.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.