The Take

Concerns for Graduate Employment30/03/17

Go to university, study hard, and graduate. For many young adults, these were the ‘keys to success’ given during childhood. Unfortunately, that generation has now aged up into one of the toughest graduate employment markets in history, at a time where young people, both educated and not, are struggling to find full time work. Youth underemployment has been recorded at its highest rate in Australia since the time the statistic was first recorded. Among the youth labor force (defined as those aged 15 to 24), 18% were underemployed and 13.5% were unemployed.

Youth employment has generally always been lower than the employment of older adults, since the demographic captures high school and university students who may opt not to work, however even factoring in these goal differences, the youth demographic is facing massive challenges in not only securing a job, but getting enough hours out of that job to make ends meet. Underemployment is when someone is working less than full time hours, and wants (or needs) to work more.

Given the high cost of living in Australia – Australia having one of the highest costs of living in the world – and the fairly low wages for many young workers, combined with the recent slash of weekend penalty rates, the problem is only set to be exacerbated.

The long term problem for the broader Australian society is that there are issues of graduates being unable to find jobs which match their education, causing many students to pursue further education that often does not pay off. This has led to an overqualified and underutilized youth work force. Considering the rising cost of tertiary education in Australia, this can leave many young people with enormous study debt, but also leaves the Australian government with money owed that may never be paid back. In the worst case, it may lead to growing unemployment across all demographics if the trend continues and job growth remains sluggish.

Unfortunately, It is expected that the trend of highly educated young workers performing jobs that neither require nor utilise their education will only rise as we go forward, and worse still, the difficult job market suggests that many will remain either underemployed or unemployed despite being qualified for numerous roles.

Some analysts have even suggested that, within our lifetimes, as we head to a job environment that may very well become dominated by artificial intelligence and automation, the job market for young people will shrink tremendously to the point that finding work will be the outlier rather than the norm. Traditional employees being replaced by AI has already occurred in Japan.

How can this issue be solved? Realistically, without dramatic shifts in society, the workforce, and the global economy, this issue is likely to continue regardless of any minor changes we attempt to make, however some have suggested that young people seeking education should attempt to cater their studies to industries experiencing growth. Fields in science, technology, coding and robotics are flagged as growing fields for the future. Some have suggested the development of new jobs and industries by policymakers. Ultimately, it is expected that governments and businesses, both in Australia and globally, will begin to approach the growing employment problem and produce research and advice on how to proceed.

Nate is the Publications Director at QUTEFS. If you want to know more about the rise of automation and AI in jobs such as law, health and professional services, I recommend reading some of the linked articles. If you are interested in writing an article for The Take, contact