The tightening economy has led to a big increase in part-time jobs.
And it could be hurting young workers, in particular.
Since 2008, part-time employment has grown to around a third of all jobs in Australia. But research from job-search site Indeed has found many Australians between 15 and 34 are taking on these roles in the absence of full-time work.
The proportion of younger workers aged 15-24 who consider themselves underemployed (employed, but wanting and able to work more hours) has also grown significantly since 2018, from 11 per cent to 18 per cent.
“Young people are getting a raw deal,” Indeed economist Callam Pickering told The New Daily. “They don’t have the same opportunities their parents had.”
Mr Pickering said much of this could be attributed to the tough conditions facing the retail and hospitality industries – both traditionally ‘unskilled’ sectors to which young Australians have a high exposure.
“We’re just not seeing job creation to meet their needs,” Mr Pickering said.
“There’s a lack of low-skilled and entry-level roles, and younger people are having to work part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs.”
But AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina argued the increase in part-time work was not a sign of a weak economy.
Instead, Ms Mousina said the lift in part-time work – especially among young Australians – was the result of more people studying, looking after family members, or simply choosing to work fewer hours for personal reasons.
The lift in underemployment could similarly be attributed to other factors, she said, noting that Australia’s participation rate (the total number of people in work or actively looking for work) is at an all-time high.
Ms Mousina did note, though, that youth employment is the most vulnerable to changes in the economy – a conclusion the Reserve Bank also reached in a 2018 report – but maintained the current lift in part-time employment was not indicative of problems in the economy.
“This would be more concerning if it affected people in older age brackets as well,” Ms Mousina said.
Skills the ‘currency’ of future job market
Young people trying to improve their chances in the job market need to develop a “marketable skill”, Mr Pickering said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean a three- or four-year degree, or a PhD, or a TAFE qualification, you just need some kind of skill or ability that the job market wants,” he said.
Jessica Mizrahi, associate director of Deloitte Access Economics, agreed.
“Skills are the job currency of tomorrow,” she said. “We have spent too much time defining ourselves in quite narrow, technical occupational categories. Saying ‘I’m an economist’ is a great example of that.
“Job titles change really quickly, but what doesn’t change is the marketable skill that sits underneath those job titles, so I agree loudly that people should focus more on their skills than their occupation, and think about what they can bring to the table.”
For example, a review of nine million job ads conducted by Ms Mizrahi’s team found the two most sought-after skills in Australia were customer service and time management.
“Stop and think about that, and how much time we talk about our coding crisis and the shortage of people with programming skills – those things are really important, but it’s such a niche part of what Australia does,” she said.
“Customer service on the other hand is needed in 97 per cent of Australian jobs – if you have that skill, it’s a pretty good one to have. We found the demand for customer service exceeds the supply of customer service by 5.5 million people.”