In 2015, Australia’s young people have a lot on their plates.
Aside from the ordinary pressures of finishing school and entering the workforce, they are doing so in the face of record high youth unemployment, a rapidly changing job market and a gender wage gap that is going nowhere fast.
It makes sense then that the latest youth survey from Mission Australia has found more than half of the young people perceive the following three as the top barriers to their individual success: academic ability, financial difficulty and lack of jobs.
For young women — far more than men — gender is also a source of concern when it comes to future opportunities.
Despite being more engaged in education and employment generally, the female respondents were less confident in their ability to achieve their goals, when it came to school or work, and fewer reported high levels of confidence compared to the male respondents.
For one in five young women, academic ability and financial difficulties were the biggest worries — for boys it was just over one in ten.
“Gender equality and feminism have probably arisen as my biggest concerns,” a 17-year-old girl from NSW responded. “I think it is certainly a societal problem, I think education is hugely essential to this. I think women need more political representation.”
The survey — which is the largest of its kind — aims to encourage young people to “speak up” about their fears.
Each year a report is collated with responses from more than 19,000 teenagers between the ages 15 and 19 and used to inform the agendas of governments, policymakers and community organisations.
Mission Australia’s CEO Catherine Yeomans said it was important to listen to the fears of young people and for policymakers to respond accordingly. She also highlighted the importance of thinking about young women specifically.
“While we shouldn’t oversimplify such responses, it does concern me that young women – who academically achieve on par, if not better than males – appear to be lacking confidence in their skills,” she told Mamamia.
“What do young women perceive as the bar that is set for them as opposed to for men?”
We asked a group of young women: “What’s your biggest fear for the future?”