Australian labour force constitutes a sizeable number of young people. The youth constitute of about 20% of the total labour force. Almost two million Australians aged between 15 and 24 are usually employed in various work situations either full-time or part-time. About 17%, those between the ages of 15-19 years work full time. The number of young people joining full time employment in Australia is currently increasing due to factors such as increased involvement in education and training, increasing cost of higher education, change in consumption patterns and increased demand for labour due to growth of service economy and occurrence of casual work in the economy. These workers in this age group are often vulnerable to mistreatment. They are subjected to poor and risky working conditions, under payment, poor health and protection standards, longer working hours without overtime considerations and workplace harassment and bullying. Oliver, Damian 2006.
Generally, young workers labour is characterized by low average earnings per week or per month than their counterparts in higher age brackets. I.e. the old labour force. This is because, youth lacks experience and training related with institutionalization of youth wages in the award system. These youths earn about half on average of what the old workforce earn in the same employment.The young labour market is categorized into distinctive employment status and composition. Those between the ages 15 to 19 earns around half of what they should earn, oblivious less than what those in upper age brackets, between 20 and 24 earns. They are mostly employed on less demanding jobs such as elementary clerical jobs, retail trade, accommodation, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. These industries are built around young, poorly paid workers. They rely upon young people of between the ages of 15 to 24 years for most of their operations. McDonald, P., Bailey, J., Oliver, D., Pini, B., (2007).
The problem of less pay for the youth is not that they do not match their labour with the old workforce but due to the legal recognition of workers under the age of 24 years as youth, and grants the employees the opportunities to pay them less in wages than those that are older. This is in accordance with the suggestion of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and human Rights Commission that “Employers may lawfully pay a youth wage “ or that its equally right for employers to pay young workers less in wages than their older counterpart based on age. It is therefore evident that young people are denied their right of equal work equal pay in workplaces. This is against the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 that states, “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.” Wilson I. (2008).
Employers basically argue that young workers lack the necessary skills and don’t work as hard or as fast as older workers. They also argue that they don’t need as much as the old workers, as they don’t have families to support. All these arguments are baseless as the workers obliviously look for opportunities to make huge profits, at the expense of young workers effort and labour. Young workers are usually exploited due to their ignorance about labour laws. They lack basic knowledge and understanding of laws that protect the workers rights such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of which Australia is a signatory. This declaration is aimed at protecting employees such as young people from pay exploitation by greedy employees. McDonald, P., Bailey, J., Oliver, D., Pini, B., (2007).
Young employees, just like their old colleagues still have to pay equal amount of money when it comes to acquisition of basic needs like clothes, food and shelter. Due to this many young workers live in poverty as they strain to acquire the basic needs although they are employed. This problem affects negatively the live of these workers in future as it reduces their ability to get a decent start in their adult life. The concept of youth wages as applied in Australian economy is totally unfair and illogical and only works to the benefits of employers to make huge profits at the expense of the poor young labour force. Allan, C., McPhail, R., and Wilkinson, A. (2008).
Young workforce is often poorly represented in the labour and related worker’s category and hence vulnerable in employment especially in a deregulated employment. These problems are exaggerated by changes in labour market especially the urge for deregulation and the ongoing depletion of employment security. Australian young workers are not well informed compared to old workers about their employment rights and responsibilities. They lack even the most primary information about a particular job position. A survey carried out in Australia in 2005 to find out the percentage of young workers who understood the award they were employed under, found that about 43% had no idea and still they did not know whether they were under-paid or received minimum rate of pay. Balnave. Brown. Maconachie. Stone (2007).
Studies also showed that young workers were having illegal deductions taken out of their pay without their knowledge. The lack of knowledge of their employment rights results to exploitations. Even where these young workers are aware of their rights abuses, they are ignorant of the remedies or procedures available to them and how to channel their disputes. The older generation workers are usually aware of their rights and work protection rights and hence they are not vulnerable to exploitations like young workers. Barnes, A. and Fieldes, D. (2000).
Young workers are forced to work more than the normal working hours, and to work through their breaks with no extra pay or unpaid overtime. This makes industrialists lure young workers in the industrial relations system, not considering the extent of their knowledge but their capacity to participate within the system. Young workers are usually under-represented in the Australian union movement. They therefore lack a strong collective bargaining base and hence very vulnerable to employment unlike their older colleagues who are trade union members and hence have strong bargaining power. In 1999, only less than 16% of total young Australian workers were union members. This is about 26 per cent of the whole Australian workforce under the union. Denniss, R. (2005).
The proportion of unionized employees is low for casual workers and low in retail and hospitality businesses, the domains that young workers are concentrated. The low unionized young workers density can be directly related to the nature of their jobs, the businesses in which they work and their casual job status. Research concerning young workers vulnerability indicates that young workers are vulnerable in many main areas. They are general low level of pay and poor working conditions, high level of instability in employment, high level of vulnerability to exploitation resulting from low level of union’s representation, their limited bargaining power and capacity with the employers, little or no support when things go wrong in the work place and lastly the low quality jobs available to many young workers. Freyens, B. and Oslington, P. (2005).
Young workers are vulnerable to work dismissals and redundancy than old workers. These conditions affected mostly young workers than old ones working in the same job status. Young people employed in clerical occupations, plant and machine operators and in hospitality industries where majority are young people are highly affected. Young workers are also vulnerable to poor employment conditions compared to the old. These issues include long working hours, poor contracts arrangements, and poor physical conditions at the workplace since the youth are considered less experienced and hence lacks specialized skills. Gomez, R., Gunderson, M. and Meltz, N. (2002).
Nearly nine-tenth of young workers is not represented and hence has no power to agitate for good working conditions. Lack of this bargaining power and availability to institutional help and information, the young workers will vulnerable and exploitation will certainly continue to increase. Young workers are also vulnerable to poor pay or remuneration. They are either unpaid or underpaid, not paid in time, or denial of overtime allowances. These problems are associated with industries such as cultural and recreation industries and hospitality of which majority of the employees are young workers. McDonald, P. and Dear, K. (2005).
Due to poor trade union representations, young workers are vulnerable to workplace bullying than their old counterparts. This is a serious problem in almost all types of workplaces in Australia. It is more to young females through sex harassment in places of work by their superiors. It also occurs to young male workers due to their limited knowledge and skills of performing a specific task. Young workers are always subjected to low quality jobs due to inaccessibility to training and skill upgrading. Due to lack of skills they lack basic research techniques that would help them explore better paying jobs and increase their bargaining power. This makes them vulnerable to exploitations and low pay. Freyens, B. and Oslington, P. (2005).
It can be concluded therefore that young workers in Australia are generally vulnerable to exploitation by pay, working conditions and violations of their working rights. They are unaware of the existing labour laws and expected working conditions. They lacks the necessary skills, knowledge and experience and hence less productive than the older workers. These aspects make them vulnerable as compared to old workers. A substantial number of young people are employed in the Australian labour market and continue to experience serious problems. These workers contribute a lot to the country’s place in the global market. McCallum R. 2006.
A strong governmental and organization policy is therefore requires to improve the structural mechanism aimed at improving the young workers’ employment conditions and hence improve the quality of their working conditions. There is therefore need to provide protection of young workers’ rights which includes the roles, strengths and limitations of legislation, government agencies, unions and non-governmental organizations. The legal and policy frameworks should be strengthened to protect young workers’ rights and improve their prediction and experiences in Australian workplaces. Oliver, Damian. 2006.
Oliver, Damian. “An expectation of continued success: the work attitudes of Generation Y. ” Labour & Industry. 17.1 (2006): 61(24).
McDonald, P., Bailey, J., Oliver, D., Pini, B., (2007), “Australian Bulletin of Labour” Vol. 33, pg. 60.
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