The hidden threat to young aussie jobs

← Homepage



WHEN the first shopper emerged from the Apple Store in Sydney on Friday, after 24 hours of queuing, proudly clutching the new iPhone 7, there’s a good chance they never got to unwrap it.

Instead, its more likely they went straight back online, looking for their next task.

These people, paid as little as $7 an hour, are the face of the new economy working task to task, with little regard paid by their employer to minimum wage, tax, superannuation, sick leave or a regular roster.

With the rise of platforms such as Uber, Airtasker, Deliveroo and Foodora over the past five years, it has never been easier to make a quick dollar providing services for others.

The problem comes when we start to see these short, sugar hits of paid activity as a substitute for the type of employment that Australians have enjoyed for generations.

Since 1896, when the Basic Wage was first introduced, Australians in employment have been guaranteed a level of income, support and lifestyle, which provided the type of certainty and stability to make commitments and raise a family.

Not so in the new economy where workers are left to their own devices to find tasks when available, and then negotiate pay and conditions on a case-by-case basis, or accept the rate unilaterally set by the platform. The only alternative to this is not working at all.

This has led to a crisis of underemployment, particularly affecting the youngest part of the workforce, confirmed by the ABS August employment figures released on Thursday.

At 17.9 per cent, underemployment among 15-24 year olds is now around five times the level seen in the early 1980s, and 25 per cent higher than the peak seen in the midst of the GFC. This is in addition to the unemployed component of the workforce, which at 12.4 per cent is more than double the rate of older workers.

In total, more than 30 per cent of our young people are actively looking for a job, or would like to work more. Sobering statistics, that lead to only 22 per cent of young people believing that they will be able to exceed the living standards enjoyed by their parents.

Getting young people into real jobs, which provide all of the benefits of old economy employment at a young age is key to ensuring they, and by extension Australia, continue to prosper over the next 50 years.

Unfortunately, the way that Australian businesses find and hire young people has lacked the innovation typically seen in the era of the Silicon Valley start-up, with recruiting across all forms of business remaining anchored to long-form CVs and cover letters.

This is not only frustrating to the jobseekers required to produce these documents and the hiring manager responsible for reading them, but it means that these real jobs remain almost completely inaccessible by smartphone.

The 15-24 age group is mobile savvy, and are more likely to have access to a smartphone than to a desktop or laptop computer. Given the right tools, they can be incredibly enthusiastic, optimistic and hardworking.

However, their choice of media and devices means that traditional online recruiting remains as foreign to them as newspaper based ads do to those in their 30s and 40s.

Sharing economy apps and services are fast becoming the hidden threat to young people in Australia looking for work, who want to make enough money to survive independently.

If we let them grow too rapidly, we risk shutting off a whole generation from the Australian Dream that we as a nation have enjoyed over the past century.

Andrew Joyce is co-founder of mobile jobs app Found