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Young people still find it hard to get a job, despite using the same tactics as older job seekers

Young job seekers are more likely to be registered with Centrelink than older job seekers, while those aged 25 and over tended to rely more on social networks and employment agencies when looking for work. Amtec Staffing/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Young people still find it hard to get a job, despite using the same tactics as older job seekers

Young people use tactics not dissimilar to those used by older people to get a job, new research finds. But youth unemployment rates are much higher than other age groups - in October 2017 youth unemployment was 12.4% compared to 4.1% for those aged 25 or more.

Young and old job seekers both tend to adopt at least three job search strategies with the most common being: applying in writing, by phone or in person to an employer for work, looking in newspapers, on the internet or notice boards, and answering an advertisement for a job.


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Young job seekers are more likely to be registered with Centrelink than older job seekers (53% versus 42%), while those aged 25 and over tended to rely more on social networks and employment agencies when looking for work.

We examined the way young people looked for work with data from the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, which since 2001 has interviewed the same people – around 15,000 – each year. The interviews include a question for unemployed participants about job search activities they have undertaken in the previous four weeks.

Almost three quarters (73%) of the unemployed young people in the HILDA sample had applied for a job in the 4 weeks prior to the interview – which was a slightly higher proportion than overall (72.4%).

Differences between young and old job seekers

The HILDA survey also questions unemployed participants about why they think they aren’t able to find work. Young people were more likely than older age groups to cite lack of experience, lack of education and transport issues as key reasons for not getting work.

There is increased competition for entry-level jobs, which the ABS defines as those that require no more than skill level five - compulsory secondary school education or Certificate 1.

Federal Department of Employment data show that vacancies in the skill level five group have declined more than 50% since 2006, the first year for which there are data available.

Department of Employment research shows that employers often want experience even for entry-level jobs and competition for these jobs is increasing. Furthermore, employers are more likely to use word of mouth for lower skilled vacancies than other recruitment methods. Without the right contacts it is hard for young people to even know about available jobs.

Unlike young unemployed people, most mature age jobseekers have experience but they often lack formal qualifications, which can limit them to applying for entry-level jobs.

Mature age job seekers have a much lower rate of unemployment than young people but once unemployed they tend to remain unemployed for longer. The longer they remain out of work, the more difficult it is for them to get a job.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that in September 2017 those aged 45 and over account for 39.1% of the labour force, but make up 38.3% of long term unemployed (more than 52 weeks) and 42.8% of very long term unemployed (more than 104 weeks).

Mature age job seekers are more likely than younger job seekers to think their age is part of the reason they have difficulty in seeking work. But age discrimination isn’t the only challenge facing mature age job seekers.

Recruitment methods have changed over the past few decades and our research suggests that many mature age job seekers lack the skills to search and apply for jobs online. Like younger job seekers they may also lack the right contacts to hear about work, especially if they are unemployed due to a redundancy and have lost touch with former workmates.

Our research suggests that lack of effort isn’t an issue for job seekers – even though it is hardly surprising if job seekers lose confidence after repeated setbacks in their search for work. What young and older job seekers need is skills recognition, career advice, and support – and most importantly investment at a local, state and national level in economic development so that their job search efforts have a chance of success.

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