A new report identifies that young people living in families without a working parent or guardian are facing a slew of challenges and concerns which are exacerbated by their lack of financial resources and more limited support systems.

Mission Australia’s   ‘Working through it’ – Findings from the Youth Survey 2018  report highlights significant differences between the responses of economically disadvantaged 15-19 year-olds and their peers who have parents with paid work. It pinpoints the negative impacts for young people on their wellbeing, aspirations, post-school plans, family relationships and support when their parents are not in paid work.

In response to the new data, Mission Australia is urging governments to better support families and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to reduce the clear stresses and pressures they face and ensure that young people have the best chance for a bright future.

CEO James Toomey said: “The affect that a family’s limited financial resources has on young people as they move through adolescence to adulthood is extremely concerning. We must listen to the voices of young people facing economic disadvantage who feel less supported, have poorer feelings of wellbeing, risk educational disengagement and report more barriers to finding a job.

These findings underscore the need for targeted policy and service responses to address the risks of intergenerational, entrenched disadvantage through education, employment and community programs. Policies and supports must be prioritised and put in place so that economically disadvantaged young people are supported to achieve their goals and families are properly assisted during times where parents are not in paid work.
Young people, irrespective of their economic background, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and be able to access the services, supports, education and training that they need. We must prioritise expanding the evidence-based programs and services that are so sorely needed so that these young people have the very best chance to engage with education, start their careers and to work through their wellbeing concerns.

The findings revealed that economically disadvantaged young people did not experience the same level of support to deal with important issues as respondents with parents in paid employment. Nearly one in five (19.4%) economically disadvantaged young people reported feeling they did not have someone they could turn to if they were in trouble or facing a crisis. This was more than double the proportion of respondents with parents in paid work who felt the same (8.4%). More than twice the proportion of economically disadvantaged young people also reported feeling very sad/sad with life as a whole (19.3% compared with 9.3% of their peers).

Economically disadvantaged young people were less likely to report that they would seek support from their friend/s, parent/s or guardian/s, or a relative/family friend than their peers. Close to one third of economically disadvantaged young people reported that their family’s ability to get along was either fair or poor (30.9% compared with 16.8% of respondents from working households).

Young people whose parents do not have paid work indicated much higher levels of personal concern about financial security, family conflict and discrimination than their peers (27.3%, 24.7% and 16.1%, compared with 15.8%, 17.1% and 10.3%). They also reported higher levels of personal concern about domestic/family violence, bullying/emotional abuse and suicide.

A notably higher proportion of economically disadvantaged young people were more likely to perceive barriers to finding work than those from families with paid work (51.9% compared with 38.0%). They were also less confident in their ability to achieve their post-school goals than those from families with paid work (14.5% compared with 9.6%).

Mr Toomey continued: “There remains a glaring gap in transitions programs available to the most disadvantaged young people. Strengths-based programs that offer the flexibility to work with a young person’s family are essential. These programs should include careers advice, mentoring, skills training, help to re-engage with education and work experience. They should also assist with working on underlying issues that might stand in the way of a young person securing and maintaining employment.

These results pinpoint the very real impact that unemployment and economic disadvantage can have not only on young people, but on the whole family unit. Whole-of-family interventions and improved holistic family support services are vital.
The impact on young people of living in economically disadvantaged families are evidenced in this research and are only exacerbated by the low rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance which are too low to support disadvantaged families through tough times.

A total of 26,935 young people who took part in the Youth Survey 2018 responded to the question regarding the employment status of their parents. The vast majority of these (96.0%) had at least one parent or guardian in either full-time or part-time work. A total of 1,080 (4.0%) young people who took part in the Youth Survey 2018 reported that neither guardian was currently in paid employment.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 339,000 ‘jobless families’ in Australia in June 2017, which accounts for 11% of all Australian families with dependents. Of these, 128,100 were couple families with dependents, while 210,900 were sole-parent families with dependents.

Read the report

Working through it – Findings from the Youth Survey 2018

Working through it – Findings from the Youth Survey 2018 infographic

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