Will Our Children Have Jobs In
Youths have no future, but
there are ways in which we can create jobs and hope with them, says Sohail
“Why should I care about the future,” says Mark Stuart. While only 25,
he has seen most of his childhood friends killed off from heroin and
violence. Most, especially the males
remain underemployed and work, if at all, in the informal
But while the death certificate might say heroin, others such as
Richard Eckersley, of the CSIRO and editor of Measuring Progress , believe that it is because Australian youth
have lost hope in the future that they are dying off. Eckersley writes that
most young people believe that the 21st century will be even worse
than the 20th. Few believe
that life in the next century will be better for Australians. Jenny Gidley, a
social psychologist at Tweed and co-editor of book on the future of the
university, concurs. She says: " The majority of young Australians
researched over the last decade about their views of the future are pessimistic
and fearful and furthermore most are disempowered by their lack of hope".
Francis Hutchinson, senior
lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury in his research of
Australian teenagers found that: “negative imagery of the future ranged from
perceptions of intensifying pressure and competition in schools in the
twenty-first century to worsening trends in physical violence and war,
joblessness and poverty.”
Paul Wildman, a former Queensland Department of Labor director, now
working in the area of pprenticeships
and traineeships believes our government has failed them. We, as a society, have not been able to give
Wildman, however, is not a bleeding heart liberal. He sees Australia in
need of ‘comfort terrorists’ those who can draw us our from the complacency of
baby boomer middle age and help us see there is life than fast food, the GST,
football and a new 4WD. He wants the
state to be responsible for improving our childrens’ life options so that they
can empower themselves. He wants shared responsibility for our youth’s futures
by government, community, family and the youths themselves.
Merely giving the future to young people does not work. As faulty,
however, are market driven programs which do not provide training or real job
prospects to them, warehouses our youth merely giving them the illusion of
making money yet not giving them an opportunity to make their future mean
Wildman and others suggest the following that need to be done to rescue
our youth’s future. They are:
electors must take responsibility to hold Government to a comprehensive
‘youth job compact’ response to unemployment that goes beyond training and
offers all school leavers a chance to make a positive future for themselves
through an options of employment:
private, community, public, self or study.
A compact goes beyond, yet includes, training. It is two- way agreement that includes rights and
responsibilities and not a handout or ‘sit down money’.
An end to duplication in training and employment bureaucracies and
jurisdictions between the state and commonwealth so that an apprenticeship in the Kimberleys means the same as an
apprenticeship in Hobart. Monies saved
could be directed into ‘job compact’.
Getting beyond ‘inquiry-led’ initiatives. The inquiry waits till the system breaks down then costs millions
of dollars and produces myriad of conclusions and recommendations which need
the very bureaucracy that caused the problem in the first place to execute the
changes. Indeed, the inquiry often frames the problem in limited legalistic
language, never working with young people and employers to create a
conversation about meaningful futures. Since the inquiry is bureaucrat let, no
Use the ‘Self help’ model. Assist young people to generate their own
future including employment opportunities, for example, building their own
sustainable housing/communities and group businesses. This is the thrust of the work of Katoomba community organizer
Alex Bowman. He believes that instead of the dole, give young people a right to
land. Let them grow food, and create self-reliance producer and consumer
cooperatives on this land.
However, for those who prefer to stay in the city, we need an urban
planning approach that sees employment designed into a suburb just as roads are
today. Jobs must be part of the design process not as something that happens
afterwards. The Greenfields Model
intended in the Gold Coast hopes to that.
However, Wildman says that in
“in the final analysis we also need to realise not everyone will get jobs so as
a society we need to use these initiatives to move away once and for all from
seeing the only option for youth, and middle aged retrenchees, as full time
What this means this means is realising that employment levels are
likely to be much lower in the future and there simply wont be enough jobs to
go around. Says Wildman, “we need to
move from ‘dole bludger’ to ‘multiployee’ where several part time jobs are
matched with some public assistance to give the equivalent of a full time job
and therefore a chance to make their future meaningful.
For Bowman, this can happen only when land becomes the base for
rejuvenating the dreams of young
people. Land grounds young people in community, it connects them, and gives
them power over their future.
“The key to a better future for youths, “says Wildman “is shared responsibility. Otherwise, we’ll
just create another bureaucracy, another iron cage.”
Currently, young people look to the future and see nothing. Wildman wants them to see hope, work and the
possibility of a fair-go. As Gidley says: "Recent research has also shown
that when young people are encouraged to develop their imaginations and are
educated with a positive values system and a sense of integration rather than
fragmentation, then they are empowered by this". Without some of the changes outlined, Australia will continue to
have the distinction of one of the world’s highest youth suicide rate.
The deeper problem
But there is a deeper problem that Jeremy Rifken in his classic book The End of Work has identified.
Unless there is a sustained global depression, in the long run the most likely
future is that of a jobless slow growth, where 20% work and 80% do something
else. Training, job compacts and other
solutions while important for the next 20 years, offer little for the long
term. In that horizon, the real challenge will be seeing ourselves as more than workers. It is thinking of our futures in
post-scarcity terms, discovering and creating that “something else.” Unless we
can think of ourselves outside our historical work identities, we will enter a
future world where the one thing that has defined us, not just the job, but
work itself, won’t be available.
Are our identities
flexible enough to survive? Can we work with youth to create futures that are
meaningful for them, can we create a new history for future generations? Jenny
Gidley, social psychologist and youth futures researcher, believes we can. She
says that it is not just jobs at issue but the failure of imagination. What is
need are visions workshops, as part of a new educational system, to help
transform negative images to positive images.