Entrepreneurship: The Key to Youth Employment in the Modern Labour Market by Krista Flick
On the surface, economic statistics paint a very clear picture of youth unemployment being at an all-time high, rising steadily since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009. Young people play a crucial role in the growth and sustainability of the domestic and international economy, yet the rate of youth unemployment is rising steadily on a global scale. Despite the fact that young people are more educated than ever, with a growing number with secondary and tertiary qualifications, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find employment, and young people remain almost three times more likely than their adult counterparts to be unemployed. Surely this indicates some kind of systemic flaw in our economy, when young people are clearly willing and able to work, yet still can’t find stable employment.
It comes as no surprise, then, that recently there has been a heightened awareness of youth unemployment within the political arena which has seen a number of policies and recommendations put forward including the resurrection of Work for the Dole schemes, and education to employment transition programs. However, many of these proposals perpetuate the stereotypes and myths around what it means to be a young person, and what it means to be an unemployed young person. They focus on victim blaming, rather than focusing on creating genuine structural change within the economy. We see it time and time again, where young people are portrayed as lazy, troublesome, and indolent, but the reality is that a small minority tend to represent an entire population. There are many young people who are creative, innovative, and keen to participate in the labour market, but just can’t get a foot in the door.
There appears to be a paradoxical situation at play, where young people in general are more formally qualified for employment than ever before, yet less likely to be able to find full-time employment. There are a number of factors underpinning this, including changes in economic conditions on a global scale which have seen the disappearance of many traditional employers and employment opportunities. The labour market is more fluid and dynamic, meaning that there are less permanent, stable jobs available for young people looking to enter the market with full-time work.
The ever-increasing youth unemployment rates understandably leave many young people feeling hopeless and discouraged, and can often lead to higher risks of marginalisation and social exclusion. Thus begins a cycle of unemployment and economic hardship, which can have adverse effects not only on individuals, but on the broader economy and society as a whole.
However, the future of youth unemployment does not need to remain bleak. As a nation, Australia prides itself on innovation, creativity, and ingenuity. It seems reasonable to assume then, that perhaps these qualities could be harnessed and applied to our labour market in order to encourage and support young people into stable and meaningful employment. This generation of young people is the most entrepreneurial, creative and enterprising yet, and potentially possess the key to overcoming at least some of the barriers and challenges of entering the labour market.
A wealth of research indicates that empowering young people to create jobs for themselves and other young people through entrepreneurship can promote economic dynamism, innovation, and resilience. Empowering creative, innovative and enterprising young people to channel their skills and ideas into entrepreneurialism provides opportunities to start overcoming some of the barriers to entry into the labour market, as well as equipping young people with invaluable and powerful tools that can be utilised upon entry into the labour market.
Rather than relying on tired old policies and band-aid fixes that are clearly not working, why not work towards encouraging young people to think outside the box and generate fresh, innovative approaches that will empower them to create and maintain jobs for themselves and others? Promoting and fostering opportunities for youth entrepreneurship can play a role in a broader and more comprehensive youth unemployment policy, by addressing unemployment, increasing labour market participation, and facilitating the creation of quality jobs. This would also help to address the increasing numbers of young people who are not engaged in employment, education or training – but who are actively seeking employment. Empowering young people to harness their creativity, innovation and enthusiasm to create jobs for themselves and other young people, would see a decline in the number of young people losing hope in an economy that does not provide adequate opportunities.
Youth unemployment is currently high on the political agenda, which creates a window of opportunity for the G20 members to compare and contrast their employment and entrepreneurship strategies, and identify opportunities for their own economies. It’s time for a little less conversation about innovation and enterprise, and a little more action in terms of facilitating entrepreneurship and job creation for young people. The government, at all levels, can play a role in empowering young people to be innovative and entrepreneurial, and unleashing the potential and power of young people to change their own world.
Krista Flick, 26, is completing a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) from Central Queensland University. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Community Work) degree and has been employed in the youth and community development sector in various roles for over eight years. This August, Krista will represent Australia at the 2015 Y20 Summit in Turkey on a full scholarship from Global Voices, a youth-led not-for-profit.