This essay will discuss why young people are two to three times more likely than adults to find themselves unemployed and why the problem is rapidly growing in almost every region of the world. Although young people today are the most educated generation ever, both industrialised and developing countries are failing to increase employment opportunities for them. The lack of opportunities is of course linked to the general state of the economy and employment situation but it is also a result of the mismatches between the skills young people possess and the skills required by the labour market.
All of these factors can lead to long periods of unemployment, job seeking or low skilled and precarious work, which are not only detrimental to young people but impact heavily on economies and society in general. (ILO tackling youth unemployment) Globalisation Globalisation and technological advances have been changing labour markets around the world. Young workers are facing new challenges in making the transition from school to work (Elizabeth Morris 2003).
Globalisation is changing the distribution of power and gains and has raised questions about legitimacy and sustainability. Inadequate attention to the human side of globalisation has created a gap in understanding its impact on life and work (International Labour Office). Economics The 1980s and 1990s saw the most profound transformation of Australian public policy since World War II and in that it fundamentally reworked a framework in place since Federation (Castles et al 1996; Kelly 1994).
This transformation was underwritten by two principles: liberalism – the view that citizens are autonomous individual actors whose interests are best served when they are free from coercive government interventions into individual action (Yeatman 2000); and marketisation – the belief that free markets are arenas which best enable individual autonomy and produce efficient outcomes (Marginson 1997). These principles define ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘hard liberalism’ (Argy 2003). How have these policy changes affected Australia?
An advocate would say it created improved economic outcomes greater market efficiencies, less public expenditure less reliance on social welfare and more individual choice. For a critic it increases inequality, corrodes quality of life and produces an atomised society in which individuals are culturally disconnected from one another and fundamental social institutions (Pusey 2003; Saunders 2002:8-12, ch 2). The primary arguments for neoliberalism are economic, mostly that a free market is necessary for economic, employment and income growth (Kenworthy 2004).
However, with the structural changes that have occurred the nature of work has changed with greater casualisation, more part-time work at the cost of full-time employment along with changes in working conditions such as irregular working hours. Income inequality has increased (Saunders 2003). The government has encouraged individuals to be responsible for their own welfare. The market was seen as a more efficient distributor of resources than the state. Skills and Knowledge
In an increasingly globalised, competitive and rapidly changing economy the skills and knowledge of young people are becoming more and more important to existing businesses, and are necessary to those wishing to set up their own successful business. It is crucial that young people get a decent basic education and have the skills and qualities needed for work. Numeracy and literacy skills are key to a well-functioning business environment, with information and communication technology (ICT) and enterprise skills (such as business administration, sales and marketing, and so on) not to be underestimated.
In particular the teaching of entrepreneurial skills and attributes and behaviours is often not properly integrated into school curricula or not adequately taught on different educational levels. Most education systems still teach only traditional values rather than independent thinking and acting, risk-taking and self-reliance. Moreover, an academic approach to education nurtures skills that are appropriate to working in the public sector or large organizations and companies, are not the key skills needed to start an entrepreneurial career.
Youth regardless of their origin have dreams, hopes and aspirations. They carry with them many qualities: “relevant and recent education and training; enthusiasm, hope and new ideas; willingness to learn and be taught; openness to new skills and technology; realistic expectations on entry into the labour market; mobility and adaptability; and represent a new generation to meet the challenge in countries with an ageing workforce. ” (Resolution concerning youth employment, 2005).
Yet youth throughout the world encounter barriers in making transitions from school to work. Frequently their full potential is not realised because they do not have access to appropriate jobs (United Nations General Assembly, 2000). Work and Employment Previously factories, offices and shops employed a large part of the working population. Now, computer based technology produces more goods, processes more office work and oversees more sales than ever before, while utilising fewer and fewer people especially teenagers (Stevenson).
Traditionally young people with little working experience have filled unskilled jobs and due to technical and organisational changes in the workforce these positions have disappeared. There have been substantial declines in the construction, manufacturing and transport industries over the last decade. The total proportion of the workforce employed in the three industry divisions has declined from 28. 7 per cent to 24. 8 per cent in the ten years (Stevenson). Despite initiatives by government to tackle the problem, youth unemployment has remained at a high level.
The teenage labour market has been in long term decline since 1965 when teenage unemployment stood at 2. 6 per cent. By 1975 teenage unemployment has risen almost fivefold to 12. 9 per cent, and, although volatile, it has risen ever since(Stevenson, Brian). Given the differences young people have they still face common barriers – lack of experience, disparity between their skills and the demands of labour markets and insufficient information and advice. Youth experience business barriers because they usually have less access to resources and credit.
It can also be typical to experience some level of discrimination in regard to age, sex, ethnicity, race, culture, health, family status and other factors (Global Employment Trends BRIEF, 2006). Difficulties such as this can make it take a lot longer for young people to find employment. It is not unusual for those entering the workforce for the first time to expect a delay. However, if an extended period of unemployment occurs it can have serious consequences for young people including a loss in production and an increase in poverty.
It is easy to become discouraged and frustrated leading to the young person giving up in their search for employment. Others continue in the education system for longer than they intended. Therefore, giving young people a chance to achieve decent employment early in their working life would help avoid a vicious circle of unemployment or underemployment, poor working conditions and social exclusion (Morris, Elizabeth 2003). In a weak labour market where jobs are scarce and competition among job seekers is savage it is difficult for anyone to cope with job loss.
For disadvantaged youth without basic education, failure to find a first job or keep it for long can have negative long-term consequences on their career prospects that some experts refer to as “scarring”. Looking past the negative effects on future wages and employability, long spells of unemployment for the young person can often create permanent scars through the harmful effects on a number of other outcomes, including happiness, job satisfaction and health, many years later (ACCI Leading Australian Business, 2010). Precarious Work
Young people are continually finding, employment is precarious and may not provide an income sufficient to cover basic necessities. Even if young people are employed, they often find themselves in low-paying temporary jobs with not many protections. Demands for a flexible workforce and the increased use of casual, part-time and temporary employment contracts have heightened the sense of insecurity and risk. More and more young people are working in an informal economy, where they earn low wages and are often experience poor or even exploitative working conditions.
The increased use of short-term contracts is another indicator of deteriorating conditions in the youth labour market, as young workers are more likely than older workers to receive and accept this type of offer (World Labour Report, 2000). High levels of youth unemployment are always a source of concern because of the profound impact unemployment has on young people’s lives. Studies of young people show that unemployment leads to a reduction in self-esteem and diminished levels of well-being. Youth unemployment turns problematic when it becomes long-term and when it leaves young people without the means to provide for their basic needs.
Around the world, the boundaries between the formal and informal economy are becoming increasingly blurred, and much of the economic activity of young people is taking place in the intermediary zone. The informalisation of work is a global phenonomen, with an increasing number of new jobs being created in the informal economy. The proliferation of informal sector employment is problematic in that these jobs tend to be characterised by lower wages and productivity as well as unsafe working conditions.
The forms of precarity seem to be ever expanding, as employers constantly uncover new ways to circumvent regulations or find loopholes in regulations to increase the profitability of their business at the expense of their employees. In the most general sense, precarious work is a means for employers to shift risks and responsibilities on to workers. It is work performed in the formal and informal economy and is characterised by variable levels and degrees of objective (legal status) and subjective (feeling) characteristics of uncertainty and insecurity.
Although a precarious job can have many faces, it is usually defined by uncertainty as to the duration of employment, multiple possible employers or a disguised or ambiguous employment relationship, a lack of access to social protection and benefits usually associated with employment, low pay, and substantial legal and practical obstacles to joining a trade union and bargaining collectively. The result is a condition in which workers cannot plan for their future, and lack the security of certain forms of social protection. Precarious work is also characterised by insufficient or even a total absence of trade union rights.
Precarious work has a deep impact on individuals and societies. Over the past years, economic crises and turbulences on the financial markets have lead to wide spread anxiety among workers. Increasing rates of unemployment and precarious work arrangements deteriorate the quality of working and living conditions. The normalisation of precarious work is already showing its deeply damaging impacts on society at large. In general, it leaves workers and communities in unstable and insecure situations, disrupting their life planning options.
More concretely, precarious workers are found to suffer a higher rate of occupational safety and health issues. Precarious work deprives people of the stability required to take long-term decisions and plans in their lives. Unemployment and precarious jobs have left a young generation hard pressed to see a bright future. The risk of losing financial independence and having to rely on lower social welfare payouts can lead to further social exclusion. It is not surprising therefore that youth are also more likely to fear losing their jobs.
Characteristics of precarious work such as anxiety and income and employment insecurity limit long-term planning especially among the young. Young workers very often accept bad working conditions and salaries on a subsistence level. Many of them do not even have working contracts, placing them beyond the reach of social security systems. Consequently the population under 25 runs the risk of falling into poverty and social exclusion. At the same time, according to the flexibility ideology, they need to ensure their “employability” and have to constantly develop new skills.
It is obvious in this context that privileges of the young from ‘higher classes’ lead to the fortification of the class divide. Hardest hit by social exclusion are the young people from the lower classes. Unemployment and material hardship in the family make insecurity part of their everyday life. For low skilled workers”McJobs” without training lead to an inevitable dead end. The lack of prospects, apathy, and resignation become normal. The precarious nature of the employment relationship itself can cause precarious workers to experience poor emotional and mental health.
It creates conditions of deprivation and a lack of social cohesion that often lead to social unrest and resentment. Society needs to create a pathway to a world where decent work is no longer a goal, but a reality. Conclusion In conclusion, the causes of youth unemployment can be analysed at different levels, but it is certain that globalisation and technological advances have had a profound impact on labour markets throughout the world; and young people, as new workers, have faced a number of challenges and difficulties associated with these developments.
However, it must be remembered that access to productive and decent work is the best way young people can realise their aspirations, improve their living conditions and actively participate in society. Decent work for young people means not only significant benefits in terms of increased wealth, but is also commonly associated with a commitment to democracy, security and political stability. Decent work can thus strengthen both the economy and wider civil society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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