WORKING IT OUT: Attitudes and Aspirations of Young Adults in the Contemporary Labour Market

Suzette Fox (2010). WORKING IT OUT: Attitudes and Aspirations of Young Adults in the Contemporary Labour Market PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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Author Suzette Fox
Thesis Title WORKING IT OUT: Attitudes and Aspirations of Young Adults in the Contemporary Labour Market
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Rose Melville
Dr Paul Henman
Dr Kelly Fielding
Total pages 212
Total colour pages 3
Total black and white pages 209
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary Abstract Young people form a unique sector to be analysed in the labour market. The age group known as Generation Y (people born between 1980 and 2000) are said to be more affluent, educated and diverse than previous generations (Howe & Strauss, 2000). Among this group, participation in paid employment is usual and in Australia, 40 per cent of casual workers are aged fifteen to twenty-four (ABS, 2009). This trend reflects the dramatic shift in the kinds of jobs available in a labour market now characterised by deregulation and casualisation. Even though much has been written about these concepts in their separate domains, the experience of work by young workers within this milieu has been generally overlooked by labour market theorists and youth studies. Drawing on a mix of relevant theories, one of the main contributions of this research is to address that gap in the literature. Findings increase understanding of the linkages between young people’s attitudes towards work, their life aspirations and individualising processes in society today. Within the new economy tensions arise between young people’s ideals and actual employment opportunities. In the past casual work provided a ‘foot in the door’ to an organization that often led a permanent job. Those linear pathways no longer apply and it is now commonplace for young people to combine tertiary education with temporary work or to cycle in and out of the casual jobs market. Decisions made during this period of time have long-term implications - for the young people themselves, for industry and for governments. For that reason, this thesis focuses on young people’s experience of work and their attitudes and aspirations arising from that. The research design is a two phase mixed methods approach that brings together quantitative and qualitative data in the one project. The first, quantitative phase performed secondary data analysis of a national representative survey of social attitudes, the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2005. Respondents in this project were a sub-set of young people aged twenty to twenty-five years. The first phase set out to statistically describe a range of work related attitudes and aspirations of young adults and examine differences according to the selected dependent variables. Job status, socio-economic status, education, family-background, and gender were associated with differences in attitudes and aspirations. Key variables were used to design a sampling frame for recruiting participants in the second, qualitative phase. Field work for Phase Two was conducted in 2008-09 and comprised of in-depth interviews with seventeen young people aged twenty to twenty-five years, who were working in casual or permanent employment. The greater depth and detail in these narratives give voice to young people’s experience of work and their hopes and aspirations for the future. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts was used to analyse responses. When data from the two phases were compared and contrasted, similar and complementary information was found in most cases. Findings provide information that can assist with recruiting, training and retaining young workers and to harness the energy they bring. Key drivers for employment among young people include having an interest in and enjoyment of the job, opportunities for promotion and personal development, and being able to help other people through work. These job characteristics were more important than remuneration and contributed to an overall sense of happiness with life and optimism about the future. Confidence to behave in a self-determining manner was associated with access to personal resources such as education and socio-economic status. Job status was found to have minimal effect on those outcomes. Interrelated themes in young people’s longer term aspirations include long-term commitment in intimate relationships, marriage and children, and work-family balance. These were shaped by traditional gender patterns. My thesis supports the conclusion that with no security or permanency in work, young people look for stability in long-term intimate relationships, home ownership and traditional forms of family life. This challenges the extent of the literature’s predicted rise in fear and insecurity. One of the things that emerged at the intersection between young people’s attitudes and aspirations in the contemporary labour market is a better understanding about these linkages. This thesis has furthered knowledge by making more explicit those connections with the theory of individualisation.
Keyword aspirations
job characteristics
young people
non-standard employment
Additional Notes colour: 56, 65, 204 landscape: 103

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Created: Fri, 12 Nov 2010, 14:15:26 EST by Mrs Suzette Fox on behalf of Library - Information Access Service