Understanding contract/seasonal employment potential in regions with high youth unemployment: Investigating job seekers’ viewpoints

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    This research brief discusses results from a project that aimed to improve our understanding of the motivations and decision-making behind young peoples’ decisions to engage or not to engage with seasonal work, as well as the perceptions of employers towards those job seekers’ choices. As past debates have mainly been fuelled by speculations about young job seekers’ motives, direct insights could help identify key determinants behind those choices, and prove critical in improving work prospects in regions and industries where young job seekers coexist with significant casual and seasonal labour shortages. The project was undertaken in three regions (Darwin, Cairns and Burnie), encompassed two industries (hospitality and harvest labour), and involved testing a survey instrument exploring respondents’ descriptions of their own goals, decisions and reactions to pre-formulated scenarios.

    • The tool developed was valuable in allowing research participants to take positions regarding significant current conjectures about their behaviour, and the political debates surrounding them.
    • In terms of reasons for not engaging with seasonal and casual work, the main reasons given were related to transportation issues and work formats.
    • On presentation of a job scenario for harvest labour, most participants initially appeared positive, though Burnie participants appeared less interested than those from Darwin and Cairns.
    • With accommodation available on site, the overwhelming insistence that transport is a formidable barrier appears questionable.
    • Employers use a range of wage payment systems. Certain wage payment systems allow employers to gauge productivity and give youth the chance to demonstrate their capabilities – these might need to be reconsidered.
    • The job scenario for a role within a major hotel/event supplier was supported mainly by female job seekers.
    • Lifestyle expectations of young job seekers appeared to hinder the appeal of shift-work and there was a noticeable preference for regular, sufficient, predictable and easily managed work hours.
    • Some commentary suggested jobs in harvest labour and hospitality would only be considered by job seekers when they ‘needed a job’ or had ‘financial reasons’. This suggested they were comfortable with not working, and were able to get by with family and other support groups, possible undeclared income and/or benefits, or unemployment benefits/welfare system in general.
    • A surprisingly large number of interviewees had never undertaken any work during school years. This observation, combined with the apparent lack of stigma arising from not being in the workforce suggests that there is little family and/or peer pressure being placed on those youth to actively seek and/or value employment.
    • The overall analysis of the methodology, sampling frame and data suggests young job seekers are highly differentiated with respect to their ability and readiness to engage with work (and with research on that topic). It is likely that our findings predominantly reflect the views of the more articulated and capable cohorts – leaving a research gap with respect to job seekers less competent, less ready or able to undertake introspection, or less confident to express their views. Further analysis with different analytical tools may be required to extract the latter.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages19
    Specialist publicationResearch Briefs
    PublisherCharles Darwin University, The Northern Institute
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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