Shock, horror – young people satisfied with their lives

A Newspoll survey of 18 to 24 year olds, commissioned by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum and reported in today’s Age, would have provided useful extra information for Cassandra Wilkinson’s new book Don’t Panic: Nearly everything is better than you think, a rebuttal of misery merchants like Richard Eckersley and Simon Castles (the Australian Literary Review has an extract from Wilkinson’s book).

Overall, 95% of those Newspoll surveyed regarded themselves as satisfied with their life overall, with nearly half ‘very satisfied’ – not quite in Danish life satisfaction territory, but up there with the Dutch and the Swedes. 88% are confident that things will work out ok in their working lives and careers, and 86% are confident that they will be financially secure. Of those currently in the workforce, 84% of full-timers and 78% of part-timers are satisfied with their job overall. Of those at university, 46% say it is better than they expected, while 15% say they are disappointed. About a third think that their standard of living will be better than that of their parents; most think it will be the same while 9% think that it will be not as good.

On issues discussed recently at this blog, 95% of uni students say that their qualification will be valuable for their working life and career. On why parents might send their kids to private schools, 87% of those who had been to non-government schools thought their school did an excellent/very good/good job ‘in giving you a good education’, compared to 63% of those who went to government schools. On the impact of HECS on the decision to go to university, among those who would have preferred to do further studies but did not ‘cost of going to uni/HECS too expensive’ scored a ‘*’, though other financial issues were cited by just under half of the 9% of young people in this category. In an open-ended question about what the government could do to help the respondents, 5% specifically mentioned lower HECS or free uni education. This is consistent with the general research on this issue, that though understandably people like free or cheap things, HECS is not actually a deterrent.

The Dusseldorp Skills Forum people ought also to be commended for publishing the full questionnaire used in the survey and an appendix on sampling error tolerances.

14 thoughts on “Shock, horror – young people satisfied with their lives

  1. Andrew, you write: “In an open-ended question about what the government could do to help the respondents, 5% specifically mentioned lower HECS or free uni education” – which somehow doesn’t give the same impression as this paragraph:

    “A little over half provided a comment, with the cost of education emerging as the key area (mentioned by 30 percent), including reducing the end-cost to students through lower tuition fees / HECS fees, or subsidies for work-related studies. Related to this are general calls to improve financial assistance for students throug increasing the accessibility and amounts available via social security payments and student loans.”

    Anyway, of course they’re satisfied – they’ve only known what it’s like to live in an economic boom. They’re young, healthy and not yet committed. What goes up must come down.


  2. Russell – For the purposes of working out whether HECS has an impact the other things mentioned were either irrelevant or vague (eg ‘lower fees / cheaper education’, which could apply to vocational education as well). If we counted all the vague answers as relating to HECS we’d get to 10%. Either way, my point stands: people like handouts, but HECS doesn’t have any significant effect on the attend/don’t attend decision.


  3. I don’t think the other guys are misery merchants — if 95% are satisfied with thier lives, then, unless they are somehow qualitatively different from everyone else, its all down hill for a fair chunk of them. C’est la vie I guess.


  4. Conrad – There is a age-based U shape in the happiness/life satisfaction data, with the young and the old generally scoring more highly on average than those in between. But at no point are large numbers unhappy.


  5. of course the doom and gloom merchants would just say that young people have a false consciousness and don’t really know how bad things are for them 😉


  6. Conrad – I think the aggregate number is consistent with other similar surveys, in which only small numbers rank themselves very lowly on life satisfaction. It’s the ‘very satisfied’ figure that should be viewed with more scepticism – the question only allows ‘very’ satisfied or ‘somewhat’ satisfied. If there had been an option that was just ‘satisfied’ I expect it would have substantially reduced the ‘very’ and ‘somewhat’ choices.


  7. I notice that around 1 in 5 young people at work are NOT satisfied with their job overall. This could be normal – but I wonder if you know of any comparative figures with the past.


  8. Fred – I haven’t done much work on job satisfaction, and while there are job satisfaction questions in various large surveys the number of young people in the sample often isn’t very high. On a quick comparison, I found a 1983 survey in which 16% of the 24 and unders were dissatisfied with their job. But there were only 179 people in that age group, and the young person’s labour market was quite different to now.


  9. Fred,

    these are the types of figures which make me surprised about these high rates of satisfaction. Maybe I’m a pessismist, but if I include people of low SES, that have mental disease, are sick, have crappy jobs, etc. , I’m really surprised about these overall results, and I wonder how un-random sampling is.


  10. Of course the 18-24 demographic are satisfied, they don’t know any better and have not experienced an economic downturn. They would have been cared for by their parents in the last economic downturn and unless they took an interest in politics at an early age would be oblivious one even occurred.

    On the impact of HECS I doubt its cost was considered given it can be deferred.


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