According to a new Brotherhood of St Laurence report, ‘Smashing the Avocado Debate’, youth unemployment across Australia sits at 11.2%, more than twice Australia’s overall unemployment rate.
Yet a common argument put forward by much of the media is that young people are lazy and waste too much money on excesses, like eating out. We are told that if young people only tightened their belts and tried a bit harder, they could be much better off.
The truth is that in many parts of the country jobs just don’t exist. The idea of eating smashed avo on toast for breakfast is actually a pipedream for most young people.
Across Australia, a quarter of a million young people are out of work, with regional and outer suburban areas experiencing the highest levels of youth unemployment.
In the Queensland outback region for example, the youth unemployment rate is the highest in the country with more than a quarter of all young people unable to find work.
Coming in at a close second is the Coffs Harbour-Grafton region in New South Wales where youth unemployment is 23.3%.
Other areas where youth unemployment is at crisis levels include Queensland’s Wide Bay region (19.8%), Moreton Bay in Queensland (18.8%) and Bendigo in regional Victoria (18.3%).
Reports like this help show that it is actually much harder for young people to make ends meet today compared to a generation ago.
In the 1980s university graduates could expect to receive a median starting salary that was about 90% of average earnings, whereas today it’s closer to 75%.
Adding to the hurdles young people face, wages compared to house prices are much lower.
The average cost of a house has increased from two to three times average income in the 1980s to about five times today. House prices in Australia have actually more than doubled in real terms over the past 20 years!
In addition, more jobs today require university qualifications, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars in fees. To pay your way through university, many more students today are forced to work in low paid casual jobs.
Far from being lazy, a number of studies show that young people actually work longer hours today than in the 1980s.
If you do manage to get a full-time job at the end of your university course, you have to start paying off your student debt. Doing this, while also paying exorbitant rent, makes saving a deposit to buy a home nearly impossible.
Most people can only do it with the help of their parents, but even that is being cut across with more and more older people using their homes and savings to pay for their own aged care.
Many of the things that older workers once took for granted are being wound back.
This is not the fault of older people, it’s the result of a system that seeks to squeeze more and more profits from every aspect of our lives.
That young people have a harder time today is actually a huge burden on the older generation.
Young people are staying at home longer and are much more of a financial burden on their parents than in the past.
The establishment and their media like to push the idea of an intergenerational rift between young people and their elders, but it’s not in any of our interests to play into this.
For those who make profits, it’s much better if we are fighting amongst ourselves rather than coming together to demand decent jobs and a bigger share of the wealth.
We should fight together for a socialist society where basic things like smashed avocado are not a luxury, but available to all!
By Anthony Main