How the wealth gap is impacting students

How the wealth gap is impacting students

A new report released today has revealed how economic disadvantage exacerbates challenges and concerns faced by young people.

Mission Australia’s ‘Working through it’ – Findings from the Youth Survey 2018 report highlights significant differences between the responses of economically disadvantaged 15-19 year-olds and their peers who have parents with paid work.

A total of 26,935 young people who took part in the Youth Survey 2018 responded to the question regarding the employment status of their parents.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 339,000 ‘jobless families’ in Australia in June 2017, which accounts for 11% of all Australian families with dependents. Of these, 128,100 were couple families with dependents, while 210,900 were sole-parent families with dependents.

The latest report pinpoints the negative impacts for young people on their wellbeing, aspirations, post-school plans, family relationships and support when their parents are not in paid work.

In response to the new data, Mission Australia is urging governments to better support families and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to reduce the clear stresses and pressures they face and ensure that young people have the best chance for a bright future.

“The affect that a family’s limited financial resources has on young people as they move through adolescence to adulthood is extremely concerning,” CEO James Toomey said.

“We must listen to the voices of young people facing economic disadvantage who feel less supported, have poorer feelings of wellbeing, risk educational disengagement and report more barriers to finding a job.”

Toomey added that these findings underscore the need for targeted policy and service responses to address the risks of intergenerational, entrenched disadvantage through education, employment and community programs.

“Policies and supports must be prioritised and put in place so that economically disadvantaged young people are supported to achieve their goals and families are properly assisted during times where parents are not in paid work,” he said.

“Young people, irrespective of their economic background, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and be able to access the services, supports, education and training that they need.”

Disadvantaged youth feeling helpless

The findings revealed that economically disadvantaged young people did not experience the same level of support to deal with important issues as respondents with parents in paid employment.

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 facing a crisis.

This was more than double the proportion of respondents with parents in paid work who felt the same (8.4%). More than twice 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).

They were also less confident in their ability to achieve their post-school goals than those from families with paid work (14.5% compared with 9.6%).

“There remains a glaring gap in transitions programs available to the most disadvantaged young people. Strengths-based programs that offer the flexibility to work with a young person’s family are essential,” Toomey said.

“These programs should include careers advice, mentoring, skills training, help to re-engage with education and work experience. They should also assist with working on underlying issues that might stand in the way of a young person securing and maintaining employment.”