Research — 24 August 2015

Affluent young people are more concerned about coping with stress than their less-advantaged peers, but both groups worry equally about body image.

A detailed analysis of the hopes and fears of young Australians in different socio-economic circumstances has revealed common ground as well as stark differences in attitudes to education, jobs and personal concerns.

The research, released by Mission Australia on Monday, shows young people from less advantaged backgrounds are more concerned about depression, family conflict and bullying or emotional abuse.

Young people from lower socio-economic areas have big dreams. The research shows they rate the importance of getting a job and financial security higher than young people from wealthier areas.

Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans said the research involving 13,600 respondents aged 15 to 19 found young people from lower socio-economic suburbs still had high aspirations.

“This report debunks the stereotype that young people in disadvantaged areas are lazy and lacking in motivation,” she said.

“They aspire to the same things as all young people: a good job and financial security. In fact, young people living in low SES areas were actually more likely to consider getting a job as important to them.

“But despite these clear ambitions, we know from broader research that young people from low SES areas achieve disproportionately negative outcomes in terms of housing, educational opportunities and wellbeing.”

The research showed only 57 per cent of young people from less affluent areas thought they would go to university compared with 77 per cent of children from wealthier suburbs.

Teenagers from less advantaged areas were more likely to nominate finding a trade as a post-school plan.

Twelve per cent stated they wanted an apprenticeship compared with 4 per cent of children from wealthier areas.

Young people from higher socio-economic areas were concentrated in major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne while children in the least well off postcodes were concentrated in regional areas.

The report, Location, Vocation, Aspiration, calls for better assistance to help less affluent young people achieve their goals.

“All levels of government need to step up and make sure we are providing the support to help them realise their dreams,” Ms Yeomans said.

“The postcode you are born into should not determine your opportunities in life.”

Chelsea Salmon, 19, of Ulladulla, was always “flat broke” growing up.

However, she has not let her circumstances stop her from achieving her goal of finding a job and living independently.

Ms Salmon, who works for a catering company, intends to undertake further study with the aim of eventually moving into a managerial position.

“I want to be financially stable and I want to buy a house one day,” she said. “Basically, I just want to work hard and be happy.”

Report recommendations include targeted career advice, better opportunities for work experience and improved access to extracurricular activities to help young people build networks to improve employment prospects.

This article first appeared on ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 21 August 2015.

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