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Media Release

October 22 2007

Young workers “in the dark” about workplace rights

Study finds young workers don't know their workplace rights Early results of new research being carried out by UniSA’s Centre for Work + Life are showing that many young workers are poorly equipped to negotiate work contracts and have little understanding about the long term value of workplace rights.

And when the competition for work is tight, young people are likely to accept jobs without giving much thought to their rights and conditions.

The PhD study being undertaken with industry partner SA Unions has already canvassed the views of 86 young workers aged between 15 and 25 years.

PhD researcher Catherine Earl says the study is qualitative in nature aiming to get a deeper understanding of young workers’ experiences and their ideas and knowledge about the changing workplace relations environment.

“So far what has been highlighted is a real gap in their understanding of their basic rights as workers, but also the possible benefits and conditions that could help them achieve future aspirations,” Earl says.

“We know more and more school children and young people are working but we know all too little about what they think of their jobs and how much say they have, or feel they can have in the workplace.”

Earl says many of the young participants interviewed to date are competing for jobs which offer low pay and few rights.

“Many are working very hard, often in addition to study or training,” she says.

“Some of them report that their current experiences are not developing their knowledge about their rights and how to access them. Some young workers on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) believe they have to accept the standard contract offered by the employer or they will not be employed.

“Most of them reported that they enjoyed earning their own money and having a job.

“But when things go wrong at work, many of those I’ve interviewed say they feel powerless and would rather look for another job than use internal or external processes and services to resolve matters.”

Earl is keen to recruit more young SA workers for the study.

“These are important issues for young people and the more we understand about how young people are interacting in the workplace the more we can clearly inform the policy debate around working conditions and incentives,” she says.

Interviews have been conducted throughout 2007 and further work will be conducted in 2008. Anyone wanting to take part in this research project can contact  by email Catherine Earl or on (08) 8302 4195. All information gathered is treated confidentially.

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