Future challenges for young people

This section examines: How the world of work is changing How young people can be enterprising How young people can lead social action How to connect young people with the region

Share this

The Overview

The world is changing

The World is changing

It has been well documented that Australia is increasingly interconnected with other countries. We are linked economically through international trade and capital movements, technologically through transport and communication links, and culturally through the flow of people (migration, tourism, knowledge and ideas) (IMF 2000; UNESCO 2014). The process of the increased movement of goods, capital, people, information and ideas around the globe is called “globalisation”.

See the spread of a tweet after the Japanese earthquake

Over the past few decades, globalisation has occurred rapidly, as governments have enacted policies to open their economies to international markets (“free trade” policies). Global market liberalism has transformed both work and the way we govern and organise our societies. In relation to work, competition between countries has increased, and industries have redistributed around the globe (for example, the car industry). Multinational corporations have emerged (Vitali et al in Coghlan & MacKenzie 2011). Advances in technology, especially in communication, have intensified global connectedness, created a raft of new industries, and transformed the way work in general is done.

Further reading including detailed graphs and analysis

Australian young people are users of, but not workers in, technology

Read More

The way we organise our society is also changing. A “new fabric of global governance” has emerged (governance being the mechanisms by which we negotiate different interests and take action to shape our societies) (Kahler & Lake 2003). New global networks now shape global production and have created more complex political linkages (Kahler & Lake, 2003). There has been a transfer of governance to private hands, with a small group of multinational companies (mainly banks) now controlling a significant proportion of the global economy (Vitali et al in Coghlan & MacKenzie 2011).

Domestic control over local economies has weakened, putting national governments under pressure as they find it difficult to protect their populations from the negative aspects of change (for example, the closing of the car industry in Australia) (Kahler & Lake 2003). This has led to a widespread withdrawal of trust and engagement in domestic governments, and not just from young people (Section 4). Change has been underpinned by ideologies that advocate small government and self reliance, which continue to shape local, state and national policies.

Globalisation brings opportunities for young people and the Australian economy but the new global economic system is also creating inequality and this poses a challenge and a threat to economic growth. The new global dynamic has led to huge increases in wealth (Piketty 2013). It was expected this would benefit all members of society because it would “trickle down” through the creation of jobs. However, this has not occurred because wealth is being held in assets (including housing) and speculation, rather than being spent in entrepreneurial ways (Thake 2008; Piketty 2013). Instead, the wealth gap between rich and poor has increased worldwide (Piketty 2013). Economist Thomas Piketty (2013) argues, unless something is done, inequality will gather pace, and return to levels of the 19th century – where 1% of the population owned around 65% of all wealth in Europe for example – by 2050.

section 2_inequality-anglo-countries

Economist Joseph Stiglitz (2014) has argued that we pay a high price for inequality because a divided society does not function well. Inequality leads to a weaker economy – lower growth and more instability. This has budgetary implications. He argues the budget deficits of recent years are a result of weak economies, not the other way around. He therefore argues for investment in decreasing inequality, and increasing equality of opportunity, to improve national economies and budgets. Policies create inequality and they can also solve it, but Stiglitz argues, “It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer [society], and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge”.

Read Joseph Stiglitz’s article on why Inequality is not Inevitable

For FYA, this context means we need to prepare young people for a changing world of work, but because of the challenges arising with globalisation, we will also need to prepare them to contribute and lead change. They will need to innovate in business, communities, government and the global realm to solve emerging challenges and create a fairer society. Without this, no matter how hard some young people try in the world of work, many young people will still fail to reach their full potential, through no fault of their own. This not only limits the potential of individual young people, but impacts on our economy and standard of living, which limits our nation as well.


Watch the School of life’s how to find fulfilling work


  1. Young people are a vital resource
  2. Future challenges for young people
  3. The transition from school to work
  4. Contributing to and leading change