The Australian workforce has undergone many changes during the past 40 years through the transition into the late modernity. These changes have led to increased individualisation, where individual behaviour is less confined by social expectations, norms and values, giving them the flexibility to move around (Beck 1992), particularly in the workforce. These sociological changes in employment since the 1970s will be examined in this essay using the concepts of individualisation and risk for an understanding of their impact on youth (those aged between 18 and 34 years) today since the Baby Boomers’ Generation.
Changes to the workforce since the Baby Boomers’ generation (those born between the years 1946-65 (Woodman & Wyn 2006)) have come to reflect society's increased demand for education, especially tertiary education. In this late modernity, young people's lives have become more individualised (Furlong, Woodman & Wyn 2011) as society’s flexibilities have allowed them to customise a work/study balance that best suits them. A leap of 28% of young adults both attending an educational institution and working part time (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013) illustrates this more popularly conceptualised lifestyle of both education and employment. ABS (2013)'s suggestion that “substantial growth in industries that offer part-time employment” demonstrates such an increase as a result of young people requiring to build their employment hours around their study schedule. This may be a way for students to sustain themselves whilst studying, thus portraying the increased individualisation in society today. Furthermore, as a result of the minimisation in social confinements, a modern nuclear family are seen to be more independent in all aspects of their lives (Browne 2005), where youth today are less reliant on their parents financially, despite being more likely to be living with one or both their parents than those in young adults in 1976 (ABS 2013). A 50% decline between 1976 and 2011 in young people no longer living with their parents (ABS 2013), demonstrates a downward trend in the independence of youth today. While this may suggest a reduction in flexibility for youth since the Baby Boomers’ Generation, it can be argued that this decline was impacted severely by further evolution of the employment sphere. With the responsibility of a family held by many young Australians in the 1970s, without their parent’s support, full time employment was the only option as a sufficient source of income. As per the values of the era, men were generally the major breadwinners for their families accounting for the 88% work rate in men, especially in the manufacturing industries (ABS 2013). Women, however, were expected to maintain the traditional role of “stay-at-home mother”. The 15% increase of part-time employment (ABS 2013) today, especially for women, highlights the emancipation of young women in diverting to a more malleable role as both mother and worker. These inherently restrictive social expectations contrast the major development that has occurred with social progress that allows today's youth's largely unrestrained experience in the domestic sphere.
Furlong, Woodman and Wyn (2011) note that “young people today are growing up in a world that is significantly different” to their parent’s world; where there were once certainties, there is now unpredictability. The changing nature of work has introduced young people today to new uncertainties in social institutions such as family, employment and community (Woodman & Wyn 2015) that did not impact their parents. In the 1970s, more young Australians had pre-determined a plan of where their futures would lead them in terms of employment: men would work in manufacturing industries and women would stay at home and care for the children. Nowadays, as a result of individualisation, young people are expected to