To enjoy the same living standards as their parents, young Australians are having to run an increasingly sophisticated obstacle course. Milestones once seen as par for the course are now almost luxurious.

They’re hurling themselves at a housing ladder that keeps moving further out of reach. HECS debts are bogging them down, growing at a faster rate than many can pay off. The cost of food, transport and childcare continues to rise.

And the one thing that could most help them get ahead – stable, secure employment – is itself becoming harder to secure.

As Irma Mooi-Reci explains today, many young people are landing permanent positions that don’t match their skills or give them enough hours, a situation known as underemployment.

Others may be luckier and secure something full-time, but only after an expensive kind of corporate volunteering – unpaid placements and internships. This requires them to work casual jobs on the side just to survive.

Now, Mooi-Reci says, there’s more evidence this cruel rite of passage could be inflicting lifelong wounds.

If young people spend too much time in and out of short-term casual work, she writes, this can lead to a significant wage gap when they’re older. And for those primarily out of work while young, the wage penalty only gets worse over time.

According to Mooi-Reci, moving between short-term jobs robs young people of the ability to establish themselves, learn and grow. Addressing the problem will require better systems to get young people into secure work early.

At the same time, we’ll need to build a more inclusive labour market that acknowledges just how prevalent insecure work has become. Every Australian has a vested interest in our young people succeeding.

Matthew Hall

Deputy Business & Economy Editor

Unstable employment while you’re young can set you up for a wage gap later in life – even if you eventually land full-time work

Irma Mooi-Reci, The University of Melbourne

Addressing the problem will require a more inclusive labour market that better accommodates non-standard career paths.

Why the pathology bulk-billing campaign is more about driving industry profits than saving you money

Stephen Duckett, The University of Melbourne

Here’s how we design a fairer pathology system, fit for the 21st century, with no out-of-pocket costs or the public.

How will US foreign policy affect Joe Biden’s chances of re-election in November?

Emma Shortis, RMIT University

The risk for the president is that he has not anticipated just how much his own foreign policy might undermine his message and the strength of his personal appeal.

View from The Hill: Albanese to walk Kokoda Track and engage in some jungle diplomacy

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese will trek the Kokoda track on Tuesday and Wednesday, before attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service. The trek is a favourite with politicians.

It never rains but it pours: intense rain and flash floods have increased inland in eastern Australia

Milton Speer, University of Technology Sydney; Lance M Leslie, University of Technology Sydney

Flash floods are getting more common, as warmer air can hold more moisture. But there are other changes leading to more inland flooding on the east coast.

How Trump is using courtroom machinations to his political advantage

Tim Bakken, United States Military Academy West Point; Karrin Vasby Anderson, Colorado State University

The number of prospective jurors saying they can’t be fair to Trump because of who he is does not bode well for the defendant, a legal expert observes,

In Knife, his memoir of surviving attack, Salman Rushdie confronts a world where liberal principles like free speech are old-fashioned

Paul Giles, Australian Catholic University

Rushdie feared until he dealt with the attempt on his life, he ‘wouldn’t be able to write anything else’. The book is a clearly cathartic story of courage and resilience, but it’s curiously one-eyed.

In demand but disempowered: why low-skilled migrant workers face even worse exploitation under NZ’s new rules

Francis L Collins, University of Auckland, Waipapa Taumata Rau

Other labour migrants in New Zealand enjoy rights broadly in line with those experienced by citizens and permanent residents – ‘low-skilled’ workers should too.

The ‘devil comet’ 12P/Pons-Brooks has finally become visible from Australia. What can we expect?

Jonti Horner, University of Southern Queensland

If you look carefully at the night sky, you may spot this fuzzy visitor with the naked eye – but binoculars will help.

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