Staying connected with friends and participating in social activities is an important part of growing up.

For young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds however, challenges at home can limit their opportunities to form meaningful relationships.

In a recent Mission Australia report, data from 1,125 respondents reveals some of the lifelong effects of economic disadvantage on young people, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Here are three ways economic disadvantage negatively shapes young people in Australia:

1. Social exclusion and lack of support 

Our survey findings indicate that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be excluded from important school excursions, extracurricular activities or social outings.1

Missing out on these activities can negatively affect friendships and relationships, with many young people also reporting they were less likely to seek support from their family and friends.

“A young person’s experience of ‘going without’ can greatly erode their wellbeing for years to come, impacting on their engagement with education, employment, and health,” says Mission Australia CEO James Toomey. “Not only does this have a serious cost for the young person themselves, but it also flows through to impacts for the rest of society.”

2. Great concern and distress levels 

Economically disadvantaged young people experienced greater levels of psychological distress compared to peers with parents in paid work (38.1% compared with 25.6%).2

 A higher proportion of economically disadvantaged young people felt stressed either all of the time or most of the time (49% compared with 42%)

Young people experiencing economic disadvantage also said they were more concerned about financial security, family conflict and domestic and family violence compared to their peers. They also indicated they were concerned about personal safety and bullying and emotional abuse.3

More than one in five were unfairly treated due to their financial background (21% vs 8%).

3. Lower engagement in education and employment 

Based on survey responses, economically disadvantaged young people demonstrated lower levels of engagement with education and employment than their peers with working parents.

A smaller proportion of young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds were studying full-time (77.7% compared with 87.7%). In addition, a much smaller proportion of economically disadvantaged young people were working part-time (28.1% compared with 41.7%).

Double the proportion of young people experiencing economic disadvantaged said they were not planning on completing year 12 (5% compared with 2%).

“My family is financially struggling which has been extremely hard due to the environment I'm in. All my peers have wealthy employed parents and I feel as though no one understands. I also have major family issues which I cannot afford to deal with legally. I have been extremely unmotivated and fear that I am disappointing people in regards to my studies.” - Male, 17, NSW

What can we do about it?

The findings in our recent report call for a society-wide approach to support young people facing economic disadvantage and hardship.

From greater income support to educational programs and employment training, a wide range of solutions can improve the lives of young people in Australia and help them reach their full potential.

Find out more about our recommendations and solutions in our Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report.

Learn more about our youth services


1Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report
2Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report
3Economic Disadvantage: Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2020 Sub-Report


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