Australia’s diverse and dynamic generation of young people are a significant resource (Section 1). To reach their full potential however, they will need to be prepared to take on the opportunities created by a changing world.
Australia’s best future lies with a generation of young people that can create a prosperous and equitable society. This means a society with a strong economy, and therefore standard of living, but also a strong social/civic culture that ensures a high quality of life. To rise to the challenge, young people will need to be confident and develop skills that make them enterprising and innovative. They will need to be linked into global networks. They will need experience in both the world of work and the arenas of social action, community contribution and leadership. If prepared, they will be job creators rather than job seekers. They will also be change-makers that can reform business and local, national and global governance to overcome global challenges, create new opportunities and build caring and valued communities.
We need to invest in young people. We need to prepare them for the future of work and to contribute and lead change in our communities. Our collective role is to support young people and believe in their capacity to envision and create the nation and world in which they want to live and work. FYA backs young people. We are relentlessly optimistic about their capabilities and support them to develop their ideas, enterprise skills and global connections and to gain experience so they are equipped to build a strong future.
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”.
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
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.
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”.
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