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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/06/2004   
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Contents >> Work >> Young people in employment

Paid Work: Young People in Employment

In 1983, less than one-fifth (18%) of employed young people aged 15-24 years were employed on a part-time basis. By 2003, this had risen to almost a half (47%)


Many people enter the work force for the first time between the ages of 15 years and 24 years, although young people can take a range of different pathways in the transition from education to a career. Some combine employment with ongoing study; some spend time seeking employment or working in a variety of temporary jobs; still others settle into a career path quickly. This transition from compulsory schooling to stable employment has tended to increase in duration over the last decade, primarily because young people are remaining in education for longer (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Pathways from school to work, pp. 96-100). (SEE ENDNOTE 1)

Regardless of whether they are studying or not, the income derived from employment is an important resource for young people. It may be their only economic resource; or may represent an important step in increasing their economic independence. Employment also provides an opportunity to develop work and social skills. However, employment for young people can be quite different to employment for older people, and is often characterised by lower paid jobs, less skilled occupations, and less job security. (SEE ENDNOTE 2)

YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE LABOUR FORCE

Between 1983 and 2003, the labour force participation rate for all people aged 15 years and over increased slightly (from 60% to 63%), as did the rate for those aged 25-34 years (from 74% to 80%). The rate for young people aged 15-24 years remained fairly stable (69% to 68%). However, underlying this overall stability were major shifts in full-time and part-time employment for young people. In addition, there was an increase in the proportion employed, linked with a decrease in unemployment. In both 1983 and 2003, the labour force participation rate for 15-19 year olds was a little less than three-quarters of that of 20-24 year olds (56% and 79% respectively in 2003).

LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION OF PEOPLE AGED 15-24 YEARS

1983(a)
2003(a)


15-19
20-24
Total aged
15-19
20-24
Total aged
years
years
15-24 years
years
years
15-24 years
%
%
%
%
%
%

Labour force participation rate(b)
57.6
80.2
69.1
56.3
79.1
68.0
Unemployment rate(c)
22.6
14.7
17.9
15.1
8.7
11.3
Employed(b)
44.7
68.5
56.8
47.6
72.2
60.3
Full-time(d)
72.1
89.0
82.4
32.0
66.9
53.3
Part-time(d)
27.9
11.0
17.6
68.0
33.1
46.7
'000
'000
‘000
'000
'000
‘000

Total employed
570.1
907.8
1 478.0
657.9
1 041.7
1 699.6
Total population
1 277.8
1 326.8
2 604.6
1 375.5
1 442.7
2 818.2

(a) Data refer to month of August.
(b) As a proportion of all people in that age group.
(c) As a proportion of people in the labour force.
(d) As a proportion of employed people.
Source: ABS Labour Force Survey.
EMPLOYMENT

This article uses data from the monthly ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS) and annual supplementary surveys to the LFS. The article focuses on young people aged 15-24 years, and comparisons are generally made with the age group 25-34 years.

Employed people are those aged 15 years and over who worked during the reference week for pay, profit, commission, payment in kind or without pay in a family business, or who had a job but were not at work. Unemployed people are those aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the survey reference week, but were available for work and were actively looking for work. The unemployment rate for an age group is the number of unemployed people in that group expressed as a percentage of the labour force (the total number of employed and unemployed people) in that group. The labour force participation rate for an age group is the labour force expressed as a percentage of the civilian population in that age group.


...FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT

While the proportion of 15-24 year olds who were employed increased from 57% to 60% between 1983 and 2003, this was mainly attributable to a rise in part-time employment among this age group. There has, in fact, been a decrease in the proportion of young people in full-time employment (particularly marked among 15-19 year olds), consistent with higher rates of participation in non-compulsory schooling. In 1983, 82% of employed young people were in full-time employment, falling to 53% in 2003.

In 2003, the proportion of all young people in full-time employment increased with age, from 15% of those aged 15-19 years, to almost half of 20-24 year olds, and almost two-thirds of people aged 25-34 years.

...PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT

Between 1983 and 2003, the proportion of all people in paid employment who were working on a part-time basis increased from 17% to 29%, consistent with an overall increase in the participation of women in the labour force (the majority of part-time workers are women: 71% in August 2003).

The youth labour market has seen an even greater increase in part-time employment, experienced by both young men and young women. In 1983, 18% of employed young people aged 15-24 years were working on a part-time basis. By 2003, this had increased to almost half (47%) of employed people in this age group (794,000 young people). Those aged 15-19 years experienced the largest increase in part-time employment (from 28% to 68% of employed people of this age). The rise in part-time employment was less marked among employed people aged 25-34 years (from 15% to 21% over the period).


PEOPLE EMPLOYED FULL-TIME, By student status - May 2003
GRAPH - PEOPLE EMPLOYED FULL-TIME, By student status - May 2003



PEOPLE EMPLOYED PART-TIME, By student status - May 2003
GRAPH - PEOPLE EMPLOYED PART-TIME, By student status - May 2003

FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT

Full-time employed people are those who usually worked 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs), and others who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more during the survey reference week.

Part-time employed people are those who usually worked less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs) and who did so during the survey reference week.

WORKING AND STUDYING

Changes in the pattern of full-time and part-time employment undertaken by young people are closely related to their increased participation in non-compulsory education and their growing tendency to combine work with study. Combining these activities may assist young people to identify career options and develop work skills, and/or allow them to fund their education and living expenses. There are a range of ways in which work and study can be combined, depending on the priorities of the student. However, the combination of part-time work with part-time study was uncommon among 15-24 year olds, suggesting one activity, either employment or study, tends to take precedence in their life.

Many young people employed full-time in 2003 were not studying (65% of 15-19 year olds and 82% of 20-24 year olds). By the time people reach their late twenties and early thirties, those working full-time were even less likely to be studying (89% of full-time employed 25-34 year olds were not studying). Almost all people in these age groups working full-time and studying undertook their study on a part-time basis.

For young people aged 15-24 years employed part-time who were studying, full-time study was the more common type of study. Of those employed part-time, 79% of 15-19 year olds were studying on a full-time basis, while 55% of 20-24 year olds were studying full-time.


PEOPLE EMPLOYED PART-TIME WHO WERE UNDEREMPLOLYED - AUGUST 2003
GRAPH - PEOPLE EMPLOYED PART-TIME WHO WERE UNDEREMPLOLYED - AUGUST 2003

UNDEREMPLOYMENT

Not all young people working part-time necessarily do so from choice. Some are working part-time as longer hours or full-time positions are not available. In August 2003, 12% of part-time workers aged 15-24 years were actively seeking more hours of work, and were available to work more hours. A smaller proportion of 15-19 year olds (11%) were in this situation than 20-24 year olds (13%).

Young men aged 15-19 years who were working part-time were more likely to be actively seeking more hours of work, and available to start more hours, than young women in the same age group (13% compared with 8.7%). However, underemployment decreased slightly for men aged 20-24 years (12%), and increased for women in this age group (14%). As they moved past their mid-twenties, women were less likely than men to be underemployed (7.4% of women aged 25-34 years compared with 19% of men in this age group).


MOST COMMON OCCUPATION GROUPS OF EMPLOYED PEOPLE AGED 15-34 YEARS - AUGUST 2003

Young people

15-19 years
20-24 years
Total aged 15-24 years
25-34 years
Occupation group(a)
%
%
%
%

Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
41.4
17.1
26.5
7.2
Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
15.9
23.3
20.4
18.4
Tradespersons and related workers
12.8
16.8
15.3
14.2
Labourers and related workers
16.9
10.6
13.1
7.8
Intermediate production and transport workers
6.3
7.1
6.8
8.1
Other(b)
6.8
25.0
18.0
44.3
Total employed
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO) second edition.
(b) Includes Managers and administrators, Professionals, Associate professionals and Advanced clerical and service workers.
Source: ABS 2003 Labour Force Survey.


OCCUPATION

Reflecting lower levels of educational attainment and work experience, the occupations in which young people are employed are generally less skilled and hence less well paid than those of older employed people. Such occupations characterise teenage employment in particular.

The most common occupations for people aged 15-24 years in 2003 were related to clerical, sales and service work. Almost half of employed people in this age group (47%) held jobs in either the Elementary, or the Intermediate, clerical, sales and service workers occupation groups. In comparison, only 26% of people aged 25-34 years were in these occupation groups. Some examples of occupations included under these broad groups are: office trainees; food and drink sales assistants; checkout operators and cashiers; street vendors; telemarketers; and sales and service trainees.

Part-time employment is common among young people working in these occupation groups. Of 15-24 year olds employed as Elementary clerical, sales and service workers, just over three-quarters (78%) were working part-time, while half of those employed as Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers were part-time. Part-time work was also relatively common among 15-24 year olds employed in the Labourers and related workers occupation group (56%), and those employed in the Intermediate production and transport workers group (47%).

Tradespersons and related workers made up the third most common occupation group for employed young people, with 13% of 15-19 year olds and 17% of 20-24 year olds employed in this occupation group. Part-time work was much less common among 15-24 year olds employed in this occupation group (8%).

Young women tended to dominate clerical, sales and service work. Women made up 70% of 15-24 year olds employed in the Elementary, and the Intermediate, clerical, sales and service workers occupation groups. This pattern continued for women aged 25-34 years, who still dominated the Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers group, as well as the Advanced clerical and service workers group.

Young men, on the other hand, dominated occupation groups such as Tradespersons and related workers, Labourers and related workers, and Intermediate production and transport workers.

INDUSTRY

In 2003, the five most common industries employing young people aged 15-24 years accounted for just over 70% of all their employment. They were most likely to be employed in the Retail trade industry, with just over a third (34%) employed in this industry. The other four most common industries collectively accounted for another third of young people's employment (37%).


MOST COMMON INDUSTRIES OF EMPLOYED PEOPLE AGED 15-34 YEARS - AUGUST 2003

Young people

15-19 years
20-24 years
Total aged 15-24 years
25-34 years
Industry(a)
%
%
%
%

Retail trade
50.8
22.9
33.7
12.2
Accommodation, cafes and restaurants
9.8
9.9
9.9
4.2
Property and business services
6.5
12.0
9.9
13.5
Construction
6.4
9.8
8.5
9.1
Manufacturing
6.4
9.5
8.3
12.4
Other(b)
20.1
35.9
29.8
48.6
Total employed
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC).
(b) Includes: Agriculture, forestry and fishing; Mining; Electricity, gas and water supply; Wholesale trade; Transport and storage; Communication services; Finance and insurance; Government administration and defence; Education; Health and community services; Cultural and recreational services; Personal and other services
Source: ABS 2003 Labour Force Survey.


Just over half of employed 15-19 year olds were in the Retail trade industry (51%), compared with slightly less than a quarter of 20-24 year olds (23%). In contrast, only 12% of employed people aged 25-34 years were employed in Retail trade, with employment more evenly spread across the range of industries.

People aged 15-24 years tend to work in industries offering part-time jobs and jobs which require lower levels of skill. In 2003, almost three-quarters (71%) of young people employed in Retail trade were working part-time.

JOB MOBILITY

Young people may move between jobs for voluntary reasons. For example, this may assist them to further their careers and/or adapt to changing educational commitments. On the other hand, movement between jobs may be involuntary, or linked to less secure employment. In the twelve months to February 2002, some 443,500 people aged 15-24 years had changed jobs in the previous 12 months (23% of those who had worked at some time in this period). In changing jobs they may have changed employer, work location, or both.

While 19% of 15-19 year olds had changed jobs, the 20-24 year age group were the most mobile, with 26% changing jobs in the previous 12 months. The level of job mobility decreased after the mid-twenties, with 20% of people aged 25-34 years having changed jobs in the twelve months to February 2002.


MEAN WEEKLY EARNINGS IN MAIN JOB - AUGUST 2002
GRAPH - MEAN WEEKLY EARNINGS IN MAIN JOB - AUGUST 2002


A slightly higher proportion of young women aged 15-24 years changed jobs than men of this age (20% of women compared with 19% of men aged 15-19 years; and 27% of women compared with 25% of men aged 20-24 years). However, in their late twenties and early thirties, men were more likely to change jobs than women (21% of men compared with 18% of women aged 25-34 years).

EARNINGS

Compared to older employed people, young people often earn less, reflecting lower levels of work experience and skills; and, particularly among teenagers, lower levels of educational attainment. In August 2002, young people aged 15-19 years had the lowest mean weekly earnings of all full-time employees, $395 compared with $854 for full-time employees aged 25-34 years. For part-time employees aged 15-19 years, mean weekly earnings were $124.

However, young people may receive considerable material assistance from parents and family. For example, in keeping with the longer duration of the transition from education to a career, an increasing number of young people are remaining in the parental home, where their living costs are reduced (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Young adults living in the parental home, pp.39-42). In addition, some young people may be eligible for various forms of government income support.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND UNEMPLOYMENT

Young people tend to have higher unemployment rates than people in older age groups. For example, in 2003 the unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds was 15.1%, compared with 8.7% for 20-24 year olds, 5.2% for 25-34 year olds, and around 3.5% for people aged 45-64 years. However, the impact of unemployment for any population group needs to be considered in light of their labour force participation.

While the labour force participation rate for people aged 15-24 years is relatively low, many people in this age group who are not in the labour force may not be seeking work, for reasons such as full-time study. On the other hand, older people aged 45-64 years who are not in the labour force are more likely not to be seeking work for other reasons. (See Australian Social Trends 2004, Mature age workers, pp. 114-117).

Further, people aged 15-24 years are at a time of transition as they enter the labour force, and they are less likely to experience long-term unemployment than people in older age groups. In 2003, 85% of unemployed young people looking for a full-time job had been unemployed for less than one year, compared with 78% of people aged 25-34 years.

Over the two decades from 1983 to 2003, the unemployment rate for all people aged 15 years and over fell from 9.9% to 5.6%. Consistent with this trend, the unemployment rate for young people also fell, from 22.6% to 15.1% for 15-19 year olds, and from 14.7% to 8.7% for 20-24 year olds.

ENDNOTES

1 OECD 2000, From initial education to working life: making transitions work, Paris <http://www1.oecd.org/publications/e-book/9100021e.pdf>, accessed 16 December 2003.
2 Wooden, M and VandenHeuvel, A 1999, 'The labour market for young adults', Australia's Young Adults: The deepening divide, Dusseldorp Skills Forum, Sydney.


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