Dr. Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, appeared before the National Youth Commission on 31 October in Sydney to discuss the challenges facing young workers in Australia's labour market.
The National Youth Commission into Youth Employment and Transitions has been holding an inquiry in communities across Australia to document the situation of young workers, who are experiencing much lower rates of employment and income than other workers.
Stanford's submission argued that young workers are like the "shock troops" of the precarious labour market: the ones sent in first to confront an especially dangerous situation. The rise of precarious work in all its forms - part-time work, casual jobs, labour hire, temporary positions, marginal self-employment, and digitally mediated 'gigs' - now dominates youth employment patterns. And that situation will not automatically disappear as young workers get older and gain experience. Rather, evidence suggests that without policy measures to stabilise and improve jobs, this will be a permanent shift that gradually affects most workers. Already, less than half of employed Australians are working in a 'traditional' full-time permanent wages jobs with normal entitlements (like paid holidays, sick leave, and superannuation). For young workers, that ratio is less than one in five.
Stanford argued for targeted measures to stimulate more youth hiring into stable positions, an ambitious effort to rebuild vocational education in Australia and strengthen pipelines to post-education jobs, and a broader commitment to full-employment macroeconomic policy.