Working through it: a Youth Survey report on economically disadvantaged young people

27 Mar 2019

Key findings:

Sources of Support

  • 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 a crisis (compared with 8.4% of respondents with parent/s or guardian/s in paid work).
  • 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).

Wellbeing, happiness and the future

  • More than double 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).
  • A higher proportion of economically disadvantaged young people reported feeling negative or very negative about the future (15.7% compared with 9.4% of participants with parent/s or guardian/s in paid work).
  • Respondents with parent/s or guardian/s in paid work felt a greater sense of control over their lives than economically disadvantaged young people (36.3% indicated high/full control compared with 27.3% respectively).

Issues of Personal Concern

  • 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%).
  • Economically disadvantaged young people 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%).
  • Economically disadvantaged young people were less confident in their ability to achieve their post-school goals than those from families with paid work (14.5% compared with 9.6%).

Key Policy Recommendations

  • Effective educational engagement and alternative education programs should be expanded for young people at risk of disengaging or who have already disengaged from school, to support their pathway into future work or study.
  • Financial barriers to accessing university, TAFE and other training programs need to be addressed and supports put in place for ongoing engagement for economically disadvantaged young people.
  • Investment in youth employment programs should be targeted and tailored to the most disadvantaged young job seekers and to those programs demonstrated to be effective in assisting young people transition from education to training and employment.
  • Economic development opportunities and partnerships between business and community could be expanded to offer more job opportunities in local areas and to support young people in their skill development.
  • Greater efforts are needed to overcome a lack of transport as a barrier to young people finding work including programs to assist young people to obtain a driving license and improved access to and availability of public transport in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.
  • Young people’s participation in extra-curricular activities should be facilitated and encouraged to build skills, networks and understanding of employment pathways. Financial barriers need to be addressed and community facilities improved in lower socioeconomic areas.
  • Improved employment supports are required for parents and guardians in economically disadvantaged families to secure work which will have a positive impact on family relationships and young people’s sense of agency and confidence.
  • While parents are not in paid work, income support must be adequate to meet basic family needs. Rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance need to be increased to reduce the stress that financial insecurity places on family life.
  • Youth friendly programs and safe spaces should be facilitated and expanded as soft entry points to help young people to build their resilience and confidence.
  • Youth services should be co-designed with young people and young people’s voice should be included in the development of local community services and programs.
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