Young people are a vital resource

This section examines demographic trends: The number of young people Their diversity Their wellbeing Their transitions to adulthood

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The Overview

Young people are facing new challenges that are pushing their transitions to adulthood back to an older age

Young people are facing new challenges

Despite doing well on traditional markers, some changes in society, discussed in Future challenges for young Australians (Section 2), are challenging all young people and are pushing back their key transitions into adulthood. These issues cannot be controlled by communities but are instead national concerns. Largely due to financial pressures, young people are now older when they become independent from their parents (see NCVER analysis below). It is harder now for young people to transition into full-time work but education is also becoming more expensive, and income safety nets are being removed (for example, Newstart waiting periods). Young people are more in debt than any other generation. The Reserve Bank of Australia (2014) has shown that young people’s (aged 25 to 34) debt has increased from $63k in 2002 to $128k in 2010 (in September 2010 prices). This is due to both increasing education costs, as the State shifts debt to them and credit card debt. The result is that fewer young people are buying houses (unless helped by their parents), they are putting off having children, and they are not saving for their retirement. Higher costs of education may also deter some young people from seeking an education that will give them the skills for high value work. This situation is stressful for young people but high levels of debt in young people are also potentially a drain on the economy, because it reduces the potential of our young workforce and stops young people from participating in markets, such as the housing market.


The National Australia Bank has supported research for Unlimited Potential to examine whether the current generation of young people are better or worse off than their parents. Each generation has tried to leave a better life for their children, with a better standard of living, better homes, greater education and stronger opportunity.  Their findings show however, that investment in young people is decreasing in Australia, and young people are doing worse than their parents on a range of indicators (red below).  In fact it is only in the areas of technology and tolerance that young people are faring better (green below).

Read ‘Renewing Australia’s Promise: Will young Australians be better off than their parents?’

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Where can I find data on Australian young people?

There are a range of data sources in Australia that provide information about who young people are and the issues they face. FYA have selected the top twenty time series data sources to help you find out about young people in Australia.

Download our 20 Top Data sources for describing young people in Australia

  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