Eliane Miles speaks on NEETs in Australia

Monday, September 19, 2016

Analysis by Eliane Miles on new research released this week from the OECD highlights the challenge for young people entering their working years, particularly considering their transition from education.

While unemployment in Australia at just 5.6% is one of the lowest in the OECD, the number of Australian young people not in education, employment, or training (NEETs) has increased by 100,000 since the time prior to the Global Financial Crisis (2008), rising from 10.5% to 11.8% of all those aged 16 to 24 – comprising a total of 580,000 young people today.

The challenges affecting youth unemployment most often lie in a young person’s transition periods. It is normal for young people to spend some time out of education and work – in fact, 2 in 3 young people aged 16 to 24 will spend up to 3 months out of education and work – but the challenge becomes when this period of time becomes greater and the ‘relevance clock’ begins to tick. When 3 months eventuates into a year, or longer, this can lead to cycles of unemployment. Today, 1 in 5 young people aged 16 to 24 spend 12 months or more out of employment, education, or training, and it is these young people that will face the most significant challenges as they try to enter or re-enter the workforce.

The demographic realities play a significant risk factor in young people falling into a cycle of unemployment. 60% of NEETS are women, and while just 3% of young people are indigenous, this percentage rises to 10% among NEETs. There is also a strong correlation between low educational attainment and struggles in entering the workforce - 37% of students who leave school in Year 10 end up not being in education, employment, or training, compared with just 11% of those with a tertiary qualification.

Watch Eliane Miles on 7 News below:

240,000 young people looking for work

Young people out of work are often stereotyped as “slackers” but in fact 41% of NEETs (238,000) are actively looking for work but unable to find a job. Helping these young people find work needs to become a national priority and a focus needs to be given to their education to employment transition. Studies tell us that the key transition in a young person’s life is from learning to earning – from study to employment. If young people are not job ready, they should be directed to a course or traineeship that will help them get job-ready. Greater collaboration between actors (schools, VET providers, tertiary providers, employment services, childcare providers, and employers) is needed, along with a broader focus on not just higher education but vocational learning.

The remaining 59% who are inactive NEETS

Questions are then most often asked about inactive NEETs – the 40% of NEETs who say they would not like a job, and the 19% who would like a job but aren’t currently looking. What is it that has discouraged them or dissuaded them from entering the workforce?

Educationally, we are seeing a significant push towards tertiary educational attainment. A generation ago in 1986, more than half of all students left school in Year 10 with most going on to start work/vocational training. Today, 9 in 10 young people go on to complete Year 12, and the majority of these enter higher education. Nationally, however, 1 in 5 university students drop out in their first year of university, clearly not being ready for the task at hand or convinced of the choice they have made.

And while we are seeing an increase in university qualifications (our predictions estimate that 1 in 2 Gen Z will have a university qualification compared to 1 in 3 Gen Ys and 1 in 4 Gen Xs), we must keep in mind that everything is not just about higher education or STEM skills. It’s about developing a broad skills base that will continue to sustain Australia’s growing economic and demographic footprint.

Challenges in the skills sector

While the VET sector has seen a 50% increase in students placed in apprenticeships since the early 2000s, the sector is also subject to significant inefficiencies. Traineeship and apprenticeship completion rates are low, qualifications are hard to navigate, some federal funding for programs has been withdrawn, and employment service providers geographically only target 60% of NEETs, leaving 200,000 youth un-serviced by employment services.

The benefits of work are more than just economic

In conversations with young people, it serves us to be reminded that jobs do more good for all of us than just money. They provide a young person with a sense of independence, self-esteem, and social connection, as well as the ability to learn and stay future-proofed. The longer that young people stay out of employment, the more they are to lose connection and become social disenfranchised, leading to greater problems.

The challenge of entry will only accelerate

As we look ahead to the next 10-15 years of Australia’s job market, we estimate that 5.1 million of Australia’s jobs will become digitally disrupted. Today’s savvy school leaver is training themselves for jobs that don’t yet exist. The reality is that new jobs which will be created are more complex than the jobs they replace. If a young person is locked out of the workforce today, it is likely that they will face an even more difficult re-entry in years ahead as the skills required to fulfilk workforce demands increase.

The challenge of financial independence will also accelerate

Commonwealth funding will increasingly become tighter. The economy has natural limits, and supporting an ageing population base and those with disabilities is naturally a more pressing national priority than supporting those who can work but are choosing not to. It’s just a matter of time before government benefits to NEETs will dry up.

Having said that, it’s also important to remember that 25% of inactive NEETs and 41% of NEETs looking for work in fact have not received any government benefits to support them. For these young people, support has largely fallen back to the informal economy, with support provided by family members and friends.

The earnings challenge for today’s emerging generation

It is in fact more financially difficult to get ahead early in life than it once was. In the 1970s, for example, when many Baby Boomers graduated from university, the average graduate starting salary was equal to the average full time adult wage, while today the average graduate starting salary of $54,000 is $26,000 less than average full time annual earnings. Student debt is also higher than ever, with more than 1 in 3 (34%) registered debt agreements belonging to 25-34 year-olds, and the average university debt estimated to be around $28,000. Today’s young generations are actually beginning their earning years in more debt than we’ve seen before. Not to mention the multi-fold increase in the cost of housing – a generation ago the average Sydney house price was 5 times annual average earnings while today the average house price is 13 times the average annual full time earnings of $80,000.

Keeping it in perspective

If young people can continue to accelerate their learning, they’ll have greater chances of success. Just 11% of bachelor-degree educated young people are still looking for full time work within 4 months of completing their course, and the strength of Australia’s economy is creating positive opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship for young people to place their stamp on Australia's future.


Eliane Miles is a social researcher, trends analyst and Director of Research at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a data analyst she understands the power of big data to inform strategic direction. Managing research across multiple sectors and locations, she is well positioned to understand the mega trends transforming the workplace, household and consumer landscapes. Her expertise is in telling the story embedded in the data and communicating the insights in visual and practical ways.

From the key demographic transformations such as population growth and the ageing workforce to social trends such as changing household structures and emerging lifestyle expectations, from generational change to the impact of technology, Eliane delivers research based presentations dealing with the big global and national trends.

With academic qualifications in community engagement and postgraduate studies in international development and global health, Eliane brings robust, research-based content to her engaging presentations and consulting. As a social researcher, she has been interviewed on these topics on prominent television programs such as National Nine News and Today, as well as on radio and in online media.

To have Eliane Miles present to your organisation on Generation Z, the state of today’s education sector, or the future world of work, contact McCrindle at info@mccrindle.com.au or call 02 8824 3422



OECD, Investing in Youth: Australia 2016

Graduate Careers Australia


A Snapshot of Education Across Australia

Monday, July 18, 2016

We have been looking at different aspects of life in Australia and we are turning our focus on how each state rates when it comes to education. Are we more educated than we used to be? In 1986 49% of students completed year 12 and these days its fast approaching 90%.

Let’s talk about tertiary education across the generations

We are becoming an even cleverer country as measured by university completion so if we look at the Baby Boomers, 1 in 5 have a university degree, for Generation X, that’s 1 in 4, for Generation Y its 1 in 3 but for today’s school students, about 1 in 2 of them will end up with a university degree in their lifetime.

How does university attendance compare across the states?

If we look at 18 – 24 year olds, who are full time students, we have the ACT and Victoria leading the charge there and the other states not too far behind, while the Northern Territory is a fair way behind.

When looking at school performance, which state is performing the best as they hit year 7?

The NAPLAN results allows us to compare across Australia. If you look at the percentage of students in year 7 who are above the national minimum standard, again good results across the board. ACT and Victoria again leading Australia as far as the proportion of students above the standards. The other states are close behind, again with the Northern Territory a bit off the pace.

Having an education usually means a lower risk of unemployment, how did the states rate?

Pretty good, Australia as a whole is going very well, with 5.7% unemployment, that’s well below a lot of comparable nations. It has gone down this year, not up and if you look at the states that are doing better than that with a lower unemployment rate, the Northern Territory and ACT are performing best however some other states particularly South Australia and Tasmania are a bit behind.

Watch Mark McCrindle's full interview on The Daily Edition here

A Snapshot of Career Practitioners in Australia

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Preparing young Australians for an ever-changing workforce is a growing challenge. Research released today by the Career Industry Council of Australia and McCrindle shows that over half of all career practitioners are working part time in their role. Of those, just 1 in 3 are able to devote the entirety of their time to career education and guidance.

Career practitioners increasingly under-resourced

What career professionals provide is key to getting young people into the workforce. When career practitioners are under resourced and time poor, this affects young Australians’ ability to enter the workforce.

Mark McCrindle, principal of McCrindle says, “Today’s school leavers are the most digitally supplied and globally connected generation in history but also have more post-school options to consider than any previous generation – they need help transitioning from education to participation. We know that school leavers today need life and career skills which can future-proof their employment in this changing, multi-career era and this is exactly what career practitioners provide.”

The top areas where career practitioners spend most or some of their time often involve things other than career counselling, such as subject selection:

Research shows 1 in 3 career practitioners are provided with less than $1000 annually to undertake career development activities across their entire school. 1 in 2 schools with a population of over 1000 students have less than $3 per student to spend on career education.

One in five unemployed Australians today is a teenager

These figures are especially of concern as 1 in 5 unemployed Australians today is a teenager.

290,000 young Australians aged 15 to 24 were categorised as unemployed in January 2015. The hardest hit were the 15 to 19 year olds, with the unemployment rate for this group hitting 20 per cent – a level not seen since the mid-1990s. Nearly 160,000 Australians aged 15 to 19 were unemployed in January, out of an overall pool of more than 780,000 unemployed.

“If we expect 15-19 year olds to be independent and resilient contributors to our society, it is important to provide them with quality career education programs whilst in school and give them access to high quality career advice, assisting them to make informed decisions about future study and work. This advice should come from qualified career advisers who meet the industry’s professional standards and have been registered by CICA,” says David Carney, CICA Executive Director.

Download the Infographic

Download the infographic which features the findings of a national survey conducted by CICA of 937 career practitioners working in schools across Australia.

For more information

For more information or media commentary, please contact Ashley McKenzie at McCrindle on 02 8824 3422 or ashley@mccrindle.com.au

Job Security in Australia: No longer ‘Job for Life’ or ‘Career for Life’

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Having a ‘job for life’ no longer exists. The workforce has been undergoing a massive transformation over the last three decades and currently the average Australian stays with their employer just 3 years and 4 months –
only a third of the way towards long service leave!

If this plays out in the lifetime of a school leaver today it means they will have 17 separate employers in their lifetime.

Moving jobs faster than ever before

Australians are used to moving on, either voluntary or unwilling – such as in the case of a company restructure and being let go of work. The big shift that we’re seeing, however, is that it’s now not just no ‘job for life’ but it’s also not even ‘career for life’ or ‘industry for life.’ We are not just changing employer but changing professions, industries, and retraining as we go. As such we are needing to retrain and upskill, preparing to move out of a given career trajectory to remain future-proofed.

The challenge of a less diversified economy

This is a proven challenge for many, especially those past a certain age or in a regional area where the employment sector is less diversified. The areas which currently have the highest unemployment, such as North Adelaide in South Australia or West Melbourne in Victoria, are also the areas where the number one industry by employment is manufacturing. In these areas there aren’t as many options, which creates extra challenges for those seeking work.

The states that have relied on just a few sectors or very large industries such as Victoria or South Australia are now feeling the sting of increasing unemployment. There’s a lesson here for Western Australia which needs to ensure that it has a broad enough employment base to ensure that any slow-down in mining doesn’t have significant ripple effects on the economy. New South Wales and Queensland have done well as they haven’t just relied on manufacturing or construction growth but diversified their economies through education, tourism, innovation, finance, property, IT, and scientific and technical services.

Looking outside the box towards growth opportunities

Certain industries in Australia are shifting, and Australians in declining industries should look to where the growth opportunities are.

The Top 5 industries 30 years ago were all industrial (mining, utilities, manufacturing, construction, and transport) whereas today there has been a shift to professional industries (Top 5 are mining, technical, IT, financial, and utilities).

While once derogatorily referred to as the world’s quarry, it turns out that we are the clever country after all with more people than ever employed in science and technical roles. The Australian workforce has undergone significant structural change and we’ve moved from an industrial base to a knowledge base.

Additionally, it’s a small business nation with 2.1 million businesses – that’s one business for every 11 Australians – and a large proportion of Australians employed in small businesses.

Workforce unemployment in the days to come

It is expected that Australia’s employment rate will continue to rise above where it currently sits at 6 percent in 2014, and economists are expecting it to peak in mid-2014. The rate has been on a steady increase and is currently the highest it’s been in 13 years, showing a very clear trend with the rise not slowing. There are clouds ahead and while we’re not in recession territory, this is a significant watch area, particularly when looking at sub-segments of employment across the youth sector and comparing state by state.

Click below to see Mark McCrindle's latest interview on Job Security on Channel Ten's Wake Up:


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